Sunday, March 27, 2011

Technology Obsession

I’ve been in the technology business for over 25 years and during that time have seen massive change occur.  I can remember the first time I experienced word wrap on a Radio Shack TRS-80 computer – I iStock_000009545884Smallwas in awe when it automatically wrapped around to the next line. All I knew at the time was having to pull the lever on a manual type writer to perform a carriage return. I remember programming an Apple II to view data in a spreadsheet format from a floppy drive.  I designed the program (we call them “Apps” today) to dynamically adjust and wrap the data fields as needed – it was amazing (at the time).  I wrote “Apps” on a DEC VAX 780 dumb terminal that drew custom screens and forms for data input and manipulation.  I was the master of my technology…  Okay, I’m getting all nostalgic here… :-)

mobile phones

Back in the day, most people didn’t interact much with technology unless their job required it somehow.  Today, technology invades our lives.  People line up over night to buy the next big thing whether an iPhone 4 or witness the iPad2 release in San Francisco. One of those interviewed said he just has to be one of the first to get his hands on it.  He did the same for every iPhone, the first iPad, etc.  What is it with people needing to be the first to have the latest and greatest new gadget?  It amazes me how much people spend on things they didn’t know they needed the year before…  People spend hundreds of dollars a month on their iPhones and Androids where a $30 / month phone used to be sufficient.  I know, there’s no comparison but…

I bought the first iPad shortly after it came out mainly to become familiar with what its key strengths would be for me as an information worker and for teacher and student use.  I use the iPad every day for something (twitter, reading newspapers, Kindle and Kobo reading, maps, search, research, notes, online buying) – it is a powerful device.  It’s such an easy device to use and very natural and intuitive.  Apple does a great job on design and usability for sure.  I bought a Windows Phone last fall to replace an older version.  I am very satisfied with this phone – in fact I use it more for some things I used to use the iPad for such as email, calendar, music, Facebook updates, etc.  I use it equally as much as the iPad for twitter, maps, weather, and general information access.  Once copy/paste is supported, I will read more on it using the Kindle app.  A great phone device is just so convenient.  I like the Windows phone partly because it isn’t an iPhone – I just couldn’t get myself to jump on everyone else’s bandwagon.  The Windows Phone is different, elegant, cool in a way Microsoft usually isn’t. Note I still use a laptop for most of my work – I can’t see coercing an iPad with blue tooth keyboards etc. to make it “like a laptop” – it just doesn’t have the power, multitasking, multi-window capability I need to be fully productive.  So, I definitely like my devices.  I would never line up to buy one though.  I don’t get that?!!  Why not just wait until they’re available at a more convenient time? 

I think there is an increase in what I sometimes refer to as “technolust” and it can’t be healthy can it?  Is it an obsession that’s building?  Here’s a cute video about Bridger who’s two years old using an iPad.  It is pretty cool how he just naturally interacts with it.  I remember my own kids at that age using a clunky slow PC – quite a different experience.  But…  what expectations are we creating for kids by exposing them so young to gadgets?  Does this early experience with technology benefit kids or hinder them?  We don’t really know but people are adopting new gadgets as fast as companies like Apple can put them on the market.  Are we creating a generation of entitlement minded kids and citizens that just have to have to latest gadget, now?  I worry about where this obsession for technology is leading us.  I think we need to be careful not to be “owned” by the technology and gadget companies like Apple.  It’s almost getting to be a religious fervor.

Okay, so here’s your chance to weigh in on this.  Are you worried at all about this obsession?  Or, do you think this is just a natural progression?

9 comments:

  1. I like my gadgets too, but this desire to have the next new thing isn't helping our planet. Where are all those perfectly good 1st generation iPads going? And the person who gets every new iPhone--what happens to their old phones? I got an iPod touch last year (after putting off the purchase for about 2 years.) When the next generation iPod touch came out about 6 months later with a dual camera, built in mic and Facetime I really wanted those options! But... the iPod touch I already had worked pretty well. Did I really need the extra stuff? No.

    With regards to young children using all these new tech devices; Canadian and American Pediatrician organizations recommend a maximum of 2 hours of screen time per day for school aged children and a maximum of 1 hour per day for preschoolers (Globe and Mail article here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/article687833.ece)
    I don't think there is a problem with very young children using technology--we just have to resist the urge to let them be on the technology for extended periods of time. More research on the effect of these devices on the brain development of very young children is needed.

    Thanks for brining up this topic--good stuff to think about!

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  2. Great point about the impact on our planet. I wasn't thinking of that but so true. The digital waste our modern society creates is creating long term permanent loss. There are limits to the materials needed to produce all these amazing devices and then when we dispose of them, how well can we harvest the materials back out for reuse?

    Thanks for the article - I read that not long ago myself. I think parents and educators need to create a balance for kids in what role technology plays versus other modes of interaction, fun, and learning. I know it was a struggle for my family growing up.

    I also wonder about these videos like the one I shared of kids using technology and the claims about their childs learning, increased learning or speech, etc. Hardly an experiment - it's just as likely that the same child would have learned equally as well without technology at that age. Some might think I'm contradicting my other posts in saying that but my point is that balance is key, tech does play a role, but so do other traditional activities.

    Thanks for your input.

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  3. Brain, I totally agree with you about balance. As I write this my primary school aged kids are having their 'computer time'. They get a limited amount of time per week to play games on the computer or iPod touch. In addition to that we do give them time to do more educational activities on the computer. It would be very easy to let them spend hours each day with screens, but it can't be at the expense of being physically active, or creating with their hands, or just doing imaginative play with their friends.
    Cheers.

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  4. all this gadgets are overated, people are just stupid who buy an ipad, then buy the next version just to be the first to get it. I have an old ipod classic beat up and had it for years, I have never had an urge to upgrade because it does what I want, it stores my vast CD purchased music library, not downloaded etc. Ipad's and touch equipment is just novelty, their worthless in the long run and quickly become obsolete

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  5. @anonymous, I think it's okay to buy and use newer tools but I think a line is crossed when it becomes an obsession. I get a device to serve a purpose. I am responding to your comment on my iPad in a Starbucks and I'm reading a book with my kindle app - the iPad is serving a purpose. While here I finished reading a blog post I started reading at home on my Windows Phone and then retweeted the tweet that led me to that post. My devices serve my needs well and I will replace them one day when newer devices add some new value. But... That's just me :-). Thanks for adding your perspective here, I always appreciate people's comments.

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  6. Hi.People want to be "one of the firsts" to buy new tech stuff because they try to run from the present. People don't socialize face to face like they used to in the past. Being on a social network is nothing but an ilusion, but people only realize that in their subconscious. They want to reach the point when everything goes back in the time where everybody wasn't so greedy and spent their time making money and not having friends, they just want to go in the future to have an idea of how will it be, to find a hope("will things go back the way they were if things will go this way?").There is hope deep in their minds. They can't have time for friends because they're busy making money. Internet social networks are just an escape, the only thing you can do in that little spare time you have. There's not much time to go out with friends or to just talk to them and not being worried you lose money in that time. So you just take out your new toy and pretend you are face to face with some of your friends.This is sad, this is the future.People alone being busy making money, people being selfish, that's how people are in the future we live in.

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  7. @trancedman, I'm not sure I'd agree with you entirely. I would say some people, perhaps a majority, are driven by money and self. But, I don't know that we can extrapolate that to "people" or the future. People's priorities ebb and flow over time depending on conditions and life situations.

    As to social networking (SN), again it depends on the person as to how absorbed they will be with that. Speaking for myself, I use SN's extensively for my work, professional learning, and to some degree personal purpose. But it doesn't reduce my interested in meeting in person and presentness when doing so.

    I hope most people are able to find a balance in their lives with technology and being human! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share your thoughts here.

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  8. Hey Brian, I never INTEND to stir things up...lol, just always have the right information (I hope) at the wrong time.

    Average hours children spend watching television = 39. Tell me, what is on t.v. that benefits children? When parents ask me about "screen time" that's the first thing I think that needs to be addressed. The LAST thing children need is time spent passively observing entertainment programs that are intended for juvenile adults. I'd "almost" go as far as to say that ANY time spent on ANY technology program is time better spent than watching t.v.

    On another note, regarding the whole ipad /iphone/ windows issue, I'm told (due diligence advised) that the upcoming version of playbook being released is just an updated version of the "rushed" response. But, the one schedule for release in the fall is a totally different creature, a pad that will run all the Android programs and make the ipad look like a toy for primary children. I'm told (again, this is second hand), that this Blackberry product was not something that could be rushed into production as it is very, very sophisticated and will be capable of doing things that most of us cannot imagine. So, while Blackberry has disappointed before, this seems to me like a gamble worth waiting for. Just thought I'd mention it in the hopes it pays off for those like myself who have been waiting for something that offers something truly "different" from a netbook.

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  9. @Gord: I think TV has been superceded by online (Netflix, Youtube, streaming) so the stats might not be relevant. Lots of media consumption these days beyond TV. I actually don't mind the mindless activity of watching TV from time to time :-)

    I think 2012 will be an interesting year for tablets. Maybe Microsoft's Win8 will cause a stir as well. Competition is good - price comes down, features and quality go up! Good for education too.

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