Monday, January 26, 2009

My Technology

I realized last night that my apartment is incredibly low-tech. Aside
from the compact fluorescent light bulbs, there is no visible
technology that was invented or developed after I was born. You could
walk in and think you traveled back in time 30 years.

I do own a digital camera, a graphing calculator, a handheld gaming
system, and some random electronic components, but they are all hidden
away in boxes. The most modern fixtures you would see are a
microwave, a clock radio, a crock pot*, and things built out of Legos,
all of which have been around since the 70's. While the specific
models I own are more modern, and have surely benefited from design
improvements, the basic technology and appearance has not changed.

Going back in time, I have a lava lamp (60's), and a few things made
of injection molded plastic (50's). But the vast majority of the
stuff I own could have been found in an apartment from the 30's. It
would have been a rich, modern apartment in the 30's, but the
technology would not be foreign.**

Even the books on my bookshelf are old. While they may have been
printed recently, the actual content is between 30 and 3,000 years
old. And I actually own several books that were printed before 1930.

This is a symptom of the odd relationship I have with technology. I
have excellent technical skills, but I do not make technology part of
my life. I am very good at working with computers and electronics,
but I do not use them in my leisure time. I almost always use
computers at work, and almost never at home. I do not habitually
consume electric media of any type. My time outside the office is
spent on sleep, exercise, and reading, pursuits that have been around
for thousands of years.

I don't know of anyone else like this. It seems that everyone I know
who had good technology skills has incorporated technology into all
parts of their life, and that most of the population is continually
linked to consumer electronics like mobile phones and ipods. Am I the
only one who has mastered technological skills but does not live a
life dominated by technology?

*The modern crock pot was invented in 1974, despite that fact that the
basic technology is extremely simple and it could have easily been
built in the 20's. This is a good example of how a profitable idea
can be left unexploited for over half a century, even if the
technology to create it is readily available. Potential inventors,
take heart.

**My refrigerator and air conditioner don't look or work much
differently than commercially available models from the 30's, even
though they incorporate some major technological improvements.

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