During a conversation last night with drummer Glenn Faast, the subject of technology came up. Most of us in the post-War Baby Boomer generation (born from 1946-1964) have seen technology grow exponentially. As an example, the only telephones we had were the old rotary dial phones rented from The Phone Company, as well as things like party lines and expensive long distance charges. Now, modern touch-tone technology enables us to just press little numeric buttons, repeatedly, through layers and layers of automation technology in our futile attempt to reach an actual customer service representative.
Not only that, telephones themselves have evolved from hard-wired, bolted-to-the-wall machines to sleek and sexy technological marvels like the iPhone, which makes the old Tri-Corders and communicators on the original Star Trek series seem so yesteryear.
These wireless wonders, however, are not just mere telephones – they are actually small handheld computers that have far more computing power and memory than did the old computers that sent the astronauts to the moon. Most of those mathematical computations were done with – gasp! – slide rules! (Generations X, Y, and Z members may have to Google “slide rule” to find out what one was.)
Back to the phones! Most new wireless phones feature a number of “apps” that either come with the phone, or can be downloaded from the thin air for costs ranging from nothing to well-it-will-just-be-on-the-next-bill-anyway-so-who-cares. These apps can do amazing things. One app can turn your phone into a GPS device, proving that no matter where you go, there you are – but now you know where it is. There’s an app called Barista, which somehow allows you to make high-dollar coffee beverages for yourself at home (I have no idea how the phone grinds the beans, much less where the water goes).
An app called Shakespeare allows you to carry around the complete works of the Bard in your iPhone. There are all sorts of musical apps, from recorders to instrument tuners to beatbox apps that let you lay down a phat beat begging for your best rhymes, homey.
There are financial apps that will calculate everything from bond yields to maturity to the correct tip for meal you just ate. There’s an app that lets golfers keep track of their strokes and putts on the course, and an app that will (allegedly) improve your game. Sure. (By the way, or BTW in text-speak: Do you know why the sport was named golf? All the other four-letter words were already taken.)
Of course, Facebook is available for almost all wireless phones, so you can stay in touch with all those people from your old high school you otherwise don’t remember.
Similarly, the Internet is usually accessible, to varying degrees, over many wireless devices. Many websites have developed “mobile” versions of their main site for the small screen, many of which contain some actual content. Some of my favorites in that department are the mobile weather websites, like www.wunderground.com. I can have with me, at all times, forecast information and live Doppler radar images that will show me with great precision just how my next outdoor gig will be rained out.
Of course, e-mail technology has invaded most of our wireless handheld devices. It all started with the Blackberry, the first cell phone to feature a bumpy miniaturized QWERTY keyboard suitable for fingertips the size of pencil points. Actually, this shows once again how we evolve to better adapt to the world around us. Those marvelous opposable thumbs, once relegated to sub-finger status, are now responsible for the most egregious assault ever on the English language. This is known as “texting,” and it may already be illegal in certain areas, like behind the steering wheel of an automo-WATCH OUT YOU ALMOST HIT THAT PEDESTRIAN WHO DIDN’T SEE YOU COMING BECAUSE HE WAS TEXTING ON HIS PHONE!!!
So instead of just picking up the phone and actually speaking to a live human being, many mostly younger people prefer to just text instead. Of course, as referenced earlier, texting has its own secret code that is to the English language what Reader’s Digest was to great literature. “OMG,wat r u wrng 2 teh sk8 pk? ‘:-P’” If you can read this, you’ll be happy to know that The Weekly Newspaper will soon be printed in a “text” version, and all the articles will fit on a beverage napkin.