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Silver Surfer Articles
46. “Help,  I’m a Data Junky!”

While away on holiday with some of the kids and their kids, my wife and I seemed to raise some ribald comments from the younger generation, just because when there was nothing else happening we got our tablets out (not the ones in bottles!) and checked for emails, checked the papers, checked the news and weather, checked for local restaurants and shops, played some games, downloaded some humour from YouTube, or music, or missed programmes from the BBC or others, or Skyped other members of the family, or simply clicked off a photo or two of the others lounging around there on holiday.  My wife uses a Surface, I use a Nexus, and other members of the family use iPads. We all claim ours is best. Communication or data junkies? I don’t think so, but it is so easy! Yes, it is a different world from that in which I grew up. I recently heard someone in the business saying that 50% homes in the UK now have a tablet. (I think for PC’s with Internet access, it is over 90% now)

Being part of the silver surfer generation I have more than once on these pages contemplated the incredible changes that have taken place in our lifetime. Some of those changes, I believe, are not for the better – regular family breakup causing more demand for smaller housing units, but let’s not go down that path. Many of the changes have been incredibly good. We live longer and are generally more healthy and when we need it, operations are available that keep us mobile.


But it is in this realm of communications and technology that the biggest changes have come.  The world out there is now in here. It wasn’t until the kids were making fun of us that I realised how much we do use our tablets now. (Incidentally if you are not sure about ‘tablets’ go to our Computing pages and see the article ‘Understanding the Technology’ which provoked this article).


Now I have to confess I think it’s a bit of a nerve the kids making fun of us because we only have to be out, as a family, in a restaurant say, and conversation ensues and the subject of who was in what James Bond film crops up because of an old poster on the wall, and my son-in-law simply (one-handed)  takes his iPhone and a few seconds later comes up with the answer. But that’s the sort of world we’re in.  I, in response, make fun of him using this dated hands on stuff because if my Nexus is in wi-fi  distance I simply flip open the lid, press on the microphone icon and say, “Who played James Bond in Moonraker?” and a second later a happy female voice says to me, “Roger Moore played James Bond in Moonraker” and below appears a Google list of sites about Moonraker – but it is the speed!


This has made me wonder why we ever need to buy books or go to school even. I just tried saying to it, “Learning Calculus” and it immediately shows me a number of easy sites for learning calculus. So I tried, “Quantum Mechanics” and instantly ‘she’ replied, “According to Wikipedia Quantum Mechanics is....” and rambled on for about five seconds and also gave me a load of sites to check out. All I need do it actually spend time with these sites!!!!  But the point is that the information is there instantly and it seems it is ANY information.


I think on these pages somewhere in the past I have commented that we have the technology to record everything we are doing. If you want to see the outworking of that, go to that article on the Computing pages and see the paragraph about the “Google Glass” which is a headset that allows you to see a mini-screen, voice activated, but which is also able to take photos and videos. It is that latter part which is causing the trouble,  We don’t actually want other people videoing us all the time!


I am the user of one of the cheapest smart-phones, and again this has revolutionised some aspects of life. I can go online wherever we are, check the weather, or train times, use maps to find out where we are, use the phone’s camera and so on. Small screen is a disadvantage though, which is probably why you increasingly see the older generation in cafes with a tablet rather than a smart phone. I find it funny watching old films where they had to go and find a phone box to check in with the office. I find it odd that my mobile phone has a better camera in it than my tablet or even a five year old digital camera!  It’s also done away with sending postcards while on holiday. My wife just clicks off a photo wherever we are and sends it to the family with a “wish-you-were-here” type of message.


Increasingly the boundaries between technologies have been blurred. It is now a computer-cum-phone-cum-camera-cum-compass-cum-nightlight-cum-games console-cum-TV- cum-home office. Is all this good news or bad?  Well I think that mostly it is fun but it does have its limitations and it is easy to forget this. I can get the information but that may not make it easier to learn it.  It doesn’t stop me forgetting people’s names in conversations.  It doesn’t make me learn to feel nice about the guy with the kango hammer working a few houses down the street into the late hours. It doesn’t help me feel better about the people in the food queue ahead of me – but then as I have converted to that well-known store’s new system of registering each item as I put it into my trolley and thus do away with unpacking and repacking and queuing at the end, I have now joined that smug group of advanced shoppers who look in disdain at the masses queuing with their piled up trolleys. Oh, yes, technology can be good!


As always, let’s have a few quotes to ponder on this subject:


It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.

Albert Einstein

He said that?????


The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty, and all forms of human life.

John F. Kennedy



Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.

Gertrude Stein

Perhaps what this article has been all about


I am sorry to say that there is too much point to the wisecrack that life is extinct on other planets because their scientists were more advanced than ours.

John F. Kennedy

He did get morbid sometimes didn’t he!


Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.

Mitchell Kapor

A good parallel!


Compaq is considering changing the command 'Press any key' to 'Press Enter key' because of the flood of calls asking where is the 'Any' key.

We can be daft with our technology, can’t we!


True story from a Novel Netware SysOp: 
caller: "Hello, Is this tech support ? " 
Tech: "Yes, It is. How may I help you ?" 
caller: "The cup holder on my PC is broken and I am within my warranty period. How do I go about getting that fixed ?" 
Tech: "Did you say a Cup holder ? " 
caller: "Yes ! it is attached to the front of my computer" 
Tech: "Please excuse me If I seem a bit stumped, It's because I am. Did you received this as part of a promotional, at a trade show?" 
caller: "It came with my computer, I don't know anything about a promotional, It just has 4X on it." 
At this point the tech rep had to mute the caller because he couldn't stand it He was laughing too high. The caller had been Using the load drawer of CD-ROM drive as a cup holder and snapped it off the drive. 

Ditto ditto


Alpha. Software undergoes alpha testing as a first step in getting user feedback. Alpha is Greek for "doesn't work."

I like it!


A printer consists of three main parts: the case, the jammed paper tray and the blinking red light.

How true!


There are only 10 types of people in the world: those that understand binary and those that don’t.

An intellectual finish!


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