"The time will come when people will travel in stages moved by steam engines from one city to another, almost as fast as birds can fly, 15 or 20 miles an hour.... A carriage will start from Washington in the morning, the passengers will breakfast at Baltimore, dine at Philadelphia, and sup in New York the same day.... Engines will drive boats 10 or 12 miles an hour, and there will be hundreds of steamers running on the Mississippi, as predicted years ago."
--Oliver Evans, 1800
Are you a techie?
A “techie” means a person who likes technology and who is good at using it. He knows a lot about computers and how to use computer programs. He also knows about the many trends of cellphones, iPods, cameras etc.
I’m not a techie. In fact, I’m what you could call a Stone Age guy. ;-)
I used to be a real pencil-and-paper guy, but now I can say that I have an elementary knowledge of computers. But my knowledge of cellphone and camera models or iPod generations is still next to zero.
I’m not a techie, but I like technology.
Maybe I even like technology more than a techie.
Why do I say that?
Because I can appreciate technology.
Being a techie is actually easy. You just need to spend some time and money being familiar with the different kinds of gadgets and devices around you. It also tends to be expensive, especially when you become a faddist of the latest products and models.
But knowing how to appreciate technology, now that’s a different story.
Appreciating technology is in fact deeper and harder.
In today’s world, very few people can sit down and imagine what life would be like without all these technological advances around us.
Have you ever truly realized the value of your cellphone? Have you ever wondered what would happen if nobody had invented it?
OK. Imagine that you’re driving late at night. Unfortunately, your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. There’s no gas station or garage in sight for the next 50 miles. And it’s raining buckets.
Plus: Your cellphone has run out of battery.
How would you feel?
Of course you’d feel afraid. As afraid as some little animal. Because you don’t have any control of the forces around you. You’re at the complete mercy of nature and there’s nothing you can do.
This is how our great-great grandparents felt a long time ago.
If a hermit pointed at that smooth piece of metal that you're holding in your hand and asked you: “What’s that?” you’d answer: “This? Oh, this is just a cellphone.”
But in fact, it’s a triumph of the human mind against nothingness.
The small piece of metal in your hand represents hundreds of years of human effort against darkness and helplessness.
It reminds us, for instance, of the first 20-horsepower steam engine that James Watts invented. Or maybe the first train ride that ran at 18 miles an hour across 25 miles of wilderness and barrenness.
When we hear the word “horsepower” we just think of cars, but there used to be a time when “horsepower” literally meant the power of an animal and its four legs: the horse.
Nowadays, a sports car like the Lamborghini Diablo has a thousand horsepower and can run 270 miles an hour.
It might be a little hard for you to imagine all these things, but think about your grandmother and grandfather. What do you think they did when they wanted to communicate with each other? What do you think they did when they wanted to make a date?
What do you think they did when they had a toothache or when they felt really cold in winter? What do you think they did when they had to travel so many miles to meet their families? Or when they got lost?
Nowadays, because technology is very common and very easy for us to get, we appreciate it very little.
We don’t realize how much effort has gone to the making of the technology, and how much comfort we're enjoying compared to the people in the past.
Sometimes, when I really think about it, I figure the cellphone would be a kind of magical power in the eyes of a time-traveler from the past. It’s like telepathy because you can send thoughts instantaneously to anyone anywhere in the world. At any moment.
That’s a lot of power inside your pocket. At the tip of your fingers.
You can do so many things – you can act - during a very critical situation, maybe even an accident that you witnessed. Or maybe just to send a message like “Hi” or “How are you doing?” to our family and friends. Maybe an “I’m sorry” or “Don’t worry, everything will be all right.”
Or “I miss you” and “I love you.”
Still, it’s hard for many of us to do things as simple as this.
If you think about it, this power that we have is almost like a miracle.