Roswell: Learning technology, one device at a time

Technologically, I’m Amish. That is to say that I have not embraced with gusto, ease or ability all things computerized, but I am coming around, glacially, in speed and attitude.

Only a few decades ago computers took up the entire basements of buildings, and any communication with them required manually keyed punch cards. ASCII, Basic and COBOL were the languages computers spoke, and they were severely less user friendly than the Windows icons of today. Now we walk around with palm-sized computers and phones that access the Internet with clicks of their miniature keyboards.

I’ve been using computers for work for three decades: as a bank teller, a broadcast meteorologist, to score standardized test essays, to secure jobs as a substitute teacher and to submit this column. But only very recently has my sphere of usage expanded to include the completely frivolous, fun and social. The Internet, Facebook, YouTube and Google Earth open the doors to all my favorite people, places and things and put everyone, everything and everywhere at my fingertips, and in my lap.

YouTube is a treasure trove of music, movie and video clips rendering albums, cassettes, CDs and DVDs extraneous luxuries. Google Earth allows travel without the expense, inconvenience and embarrassment of airport security checks, visiting old neighborhoods and haunts with three-dimensional panoramic views. The Internet provides access to information from a wide range of varying quality resources. Today, photographs can be uploaded, downloaded, viewed and shared with relative ease and minimal storage compared to yesterday’s photo albums. And e-mail, although everyone curses it’s spam and rude casualness, is a wonderful way to communicate as it allows both sender and recipient the convenience of writing, reading and responding at their own pace.

I rarely use my cellphone as a phone as it is too small and difficult to hear, and I’ve never used it to take pictures. Overwhelmingly I utilize it to text, as that is the regular and reliable route of communicating with my sons, ages 21 and 16.

Several summers ago, the college girls I worked with at a neighborhood gift shop shared their texting skills with me after I’d received one that I was unable to locate or read. It wasn’t as difficult as I’d imagined. Once into the proper menu it was easier than learning to type had been in junior high school. But I promise you and Oprah, our state Legislature and everyone else that although I am comfortable texting, and although I’ve been driving for three dozen years, I would never dream of combining the two. It’s all I can do to drive while driving, and texting requires too much visual concentration.

Talking on cellphones while driving should also be prohibited because even if the chat is truly mindless drivel, it is still a distraction that diverts attention from the road. We are ethically and morally bound to give the privilege of driving our complete attention, and we should be legally discouraged from driving while distracted. Everyone’s driving privileges should end where everyone else’s rights on our roads begin.

Vicki Griffin of Roswell works in education and communication.