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 Texas : Features : Columns : Letters From North America :

You Call This Progress?

by Peary Perry
Peary Perry
Whoever said this was the information age made a huge understatement, it should have been the Ďtoo muchí information age. All of these things we now use were supposed to allow us more free time and make life easier. Iím still waiting for this to happen.

I have four computers, two pcís (one at my office, one at home) a laptop and a net book. I use each one for different reasons. The net book is small enough to use in that ten inch space they give you between seats on an airplane. Airplane tray tables are designed for kids of six and younger. No decent adult sized person can successfully read, eat or handle anything larger than a copy of the Readers Digest without having your space interfere with the person sitting next to you. Or for that matter having theirs interfering into your personal zone. Something that no sane flying passenger appreciates.

So, you end up with four separate machines with four separate sets of information and most of us end up searching for this file and that file without knowing where anything is at any point in time. Years ago we carried everything we needed in a briefcase on a legal pad. We used a phone to communicate with others about our personal and business needs. You didnít need a user name and a password to talk to your brother; you just dialed his number and talked to him. If you want to communicate to your brother today on something like Facebook, you have to enter your user name and some password which you never can seem to remember. Most of us try to use passwords that are relatively simple to remember, like our dogs name or our birthdays, but since these arenít secure, the various web sites make it more and more complicated. Suppose your dogís name is Rover, you probably have to combine that with a series of numbers such as 1234. Now, since 1234 has no relationship to Rover in the first place, as soon as you establish this as your password, you will promptly forget what the number actually is. You might write it on your hand, but thatís only good until you take one or two (hopefully) baths.

Then youíre so paranoid, you donít purposely write the number down anywhere since youíre afraid someone might actually want those pictures of you scuba diving in Mexico. Then to further complicate matters you canít or donít use the same user name and password for each and every website you have on your computer or in my case, computers. No, that would be too logical but stupid. So, you have to try and remember what you used to log into each web site Ö.more information. Youíre also too paranoid to use one of those password sites or memory devices because you heard about some friendsí ex-brother in law who did this and their entire saving account was transferred out to some drug lord in Russia. The fact that you only have less than fifty dollars in your account at any one time doesnít really matter, those drug lords are merciless and stoop to any depth to get all of your money.

So if you are like me, you have web sites on some computers that are not on the others. You have e-mail addresses scattered on all of them and canít remember which one you used to contact your long lost friend in Australia. These web sites are grouped in files under favorites, but you have forgotten in which file you saved what in. This causes you to have to return to the web site and select the ĎIím too dumb to remember anythingí button and start the process all over again. This means the web site will send you a notice to your e-mail telling you what the information is that you need to enter their site. Thus what should be done in a matter of seconds now takes ten minutes. This, my friends, is not progress, I donít care what they say.

In the old days, everyone carried around a little book with their phone numbers in itÖ.so what if you lost it? No big deal, no one was going to break into your bank and steal your life savings just because they found your personal phone book.

Computers are great labor saving tools for a lot of things, but in some cases they have made life more complicated, not simpler. However, they have become a way of life and we wonít be going back to the old pad and pen any time soon.

Sometimes I wish we hadnít made so much progress.


© Peary Perry
Comments go to pperry@austin.rr.com

Letters From North America - May 20, 2009 column
Syndicated weekly in 80 newspapers
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