My life can can be divided as BC (before computers) and AC (after computers). While my life and work became easier and more productive with personal computers, there are things I miss. I will list a few of these, both plus and minus, that I have seen.
My history with computers, both plus and minus in my life and work
My introduction to computers was an IBM 1620 at Cal Poly, the only one on campus. It had 16K of memory (even the old flip phones have more), and the input and output was done with punch cards. These cards were run in the computer each night. My first program was simple, with an expected output of a few answers. Unfortunately, I made a programming error. Since I was there when it ran that night in the computer lab, I could watch the output of punch cards. Too bad there were dozen of cards coming out the machine, and as the computer manager said to me “did you expect this much output?”. After my “no” answer, he terminated the program. Off to the punch card room to add more cards to my program. Finally, it ran correctly.
In the early 70s, the hand held calculator became affordable. It was great! No more addition, subtraction, etc. errors. In fact, the thick books of Standard Mathematical Tables were almost obsolete. To determine the sin, cosine, logarithm of a number, just punch it into the calculator. The answer was there before you could find a set of math tables. Later calculators could be programmed to determine special problems, such as interest on a car loan or work calculations to determine the necessary pH needed to run a chemical analysis. I loved it!
Finally, the personal PC came. It stored data, names, addresses, and solutions to problems. In the chemistry lab where I worked, one example shows its power. An analysis done by an instrument that gave an output as a squiggly curve on a chart. The more of the chemical in the solution, the more area of the curve. Generally, one measures the area a a triangle (1/2 base x height). However, this curve could not be measured that way since it was so odd shaped. Therefore, we xeroxed the curve from the chart paper and cut out the curve. The cut-out curve was then weighted on very accurate analytical balances. The heavier the cut-out curve was, the more of the chemical was present. It took 20 to 30 minutes to do this entire process. Computers shorten the time to less than a minute.
With the internet, more great things happen. No longer did I have to run to the dictionary to look up a word. If I wanted to know when a song was released, just look it up on Wikipedia. In fact, my old World Book Encyclopedias went to the trash.
Finally, computers are everywhere now. My new car has a built-in GPS system. It’s computer remembers my seat and mirror positions so when I get in it, and after it scans my face, it moves the mirrors and seat to my position.
There are things I miss. Yesterday, I found a letter my mother wrote me 50 years ago. It was fun to read it. I doubt I would have it if it was on e-mail. The telephone has lost its utility. Most calls are junk calls, and when I call a vendor, I generally go to there computerized answering system hell made possible by computers. I have waited up to 50 minutes to get a real human who can help me with my problem. Sometimes, there is not even a phone number. A month ago, I had some problems with Federal Express. No phone number and their web site did not help. I finally got help after I wrote the Channel 7 News’ consumer reporter. It’s like the phone has been weaponized against me.
Computers have added a new dimension for criminals to harm you. I still pay most of my bills by check and using the US Postal System. While it is not fool proof, stealing mail to cash a check is a federal crime. Most computer crime comes from people overseas, and they are hard to punish. Spending 55 cents is a small price to pay for added security in my opinion.
Overall, the computer revolution has been a blessing. Unfortunately, like most things, a few people and organizations have exploited it and not all things have worked out well.
I was a child that moved so often, (8 elementary/middle schools) and finally went to to high school in Arroyo Grande California. I ended up at San Jose State University graduating in Chemistry, minor in Biology. Got married, and had two sons. Unfortunately, my wife passed 35 years later. I worked initially in the pharmaceutical industry. After being down-sized, I ended up in the aerospace field, working on satellites. I still live in the San Francisco Bay Area.