Monday, April 30, 2012

Computer Dependency: Are we going too far?

In the past, a computer was a household luxury. If you had one, chances were it was to play games on or to do basic letter writing. The first computer we had at home was a Commodore 64 from my old primary school, complete with games and a word processing program and a dot-matrix printer. No program ran automatically. We had to type in LOAD “PROGRAM” and then respond to the questions. If you saved any work it was on a disk the size of an adult’s hand. It wasn’t absolutely necessary to have a computer at home. We were taught how to use computers starting in primary school, beginning with the aforementioned brand, as well as an Apple Mac and then a desktop not to dissimilar to what we have now. As we were educated, we saw shifts in how we did things. In the early years at school, you borrowed book using a stamp in/ stamp out process. Then came computers and suddenly it was easier to track who had borrowed books when. By high school, everyone was required to at least know how to use a computer. As we advanced in years, we learned how to use different applications because we’d need them in the years to go on. We began to be required to hand in typed assignments, and so our dependence grew. The inclusion of the internet meant that information was no longer just what was printed in the books at our fingers. We could access anything in the world. Now, a computer is a necessity. If you run your own business, you need a computer to keep track of your finances. The art of book-keeping as our grandparents had done it has gone away. I remember when my dad first started sub-contracting, I did his work time sheets on our computer because it was neater and easier. Not many of his co-workers did this. Now, everything is to be passed in on computer page. As a writer, I can’t imagine having to use a typewriter to write my manuscripts over and over again with new revisions. And yet, you have people like my paternal grandparents, who do not own, nor will they ever own a computer. They do own a mobile phone, but it is only turned on if they are going somewhere and it is only to receive and make calls on. For them, a computer is not a necessity, it isn’t a luxury either. It’s just something that they do not think they need. We are dependent on computers. It would be totally ignorant to say otherwise. But as to whether we are too dependent, I think that is really an individual thing. I use mine to edit a manuscript, yes, but it isn’t on the whole day. I print out my manuscripts and edit by hand, before beginning to change the on-screen version. I use it to check emails, social network updates, pay bills or do genera research if I can’t get to the library for some reason. Yes, I am dependent on my computer, but I know that I can turn it off when I need to.

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