“I don’t have techno-fear, I have techno-joy!” — Eddie Izzard
I’ve been in the computer industry for nearly 30 years. Before that, I had experiences with mainframes at UCLA and a programmable Radio Shack calculator. Why do I like technology so much? For a simple reason: It enables us to do things.
In my novel, a teenager asks, “How did people write before computers?” When I was a teenager, I wrote with a typewriter. I had a Sears electric typewriter with a correction ribbon. The correction ribbon was handy when the cartridge was new, but it always ran out long before the ink ribbon did. Even with the correction ribbon, if I made a major gaffe like leaving out a word, I had to type the whole page over again.
When I got my first computer, a Commodore 64, it made writing much easier. Cut, copy, and paste — now as natural as typing on a smartphone with your thumbs — was an eyeopener for me back then. I could move text around and fix typos without having to retype a page! I could even use bold and italics, something I could never do on a typewriter. Technology made it easier for me to write, which also made my writing better.
Technology has also gotten me out of trouble a few times. I recently got an iPhone 5s. (My wife got my Samsung Galaxy S3.) When we were out doing errands, I used Siri to help me find the closest store to our location and call a place to find out when it closed.
But it was a cell phone I had ten years ago that helped me get my job. I had two main leads: one was a place close to home, and the other was further away. I had finished my interviews at the place that was further away when I got a call from my wife. She told me that the place close to home was trying to reach me with an offer. I called that place from the parking lot and accepted the offer. If I didn’t have a cell phone, I wouldn’t have known about the offer until I came home — and possibly missed out on the job.
The most remarkable thing technology enables people to do is to overcome physical limitations. I’ve met people at technical writing conferences who are blind, and they are able to use Braille laptops to use software, visit websites, and communicate. Advances in prosthetic limbs may enable people to regain abilities they lost because of injury. Technology may also help stroke victims progress further in their recovery than with conventional therapy.
I like technology because it enables us to do things better and more efficiently. It helps us solve problems. More importantly, it gives hope to people with physical limitations. I’m proud to be a part of a field that improves the quality of life for all people.