Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Technology Creep Is Subtle, And We Love It

When I am done with my banking business at the ATM I now have a choice as to how I want to receive my receipt.  I can print it at the ATM, email it to myself, or both.  I choose email.  Less paper, less clutter in my wallet, and I have a record of the transaction available anywhere my email is, and that is everywhere for the most part.  This is a good thing for those of us that accumulate receipts like autumn leaves that linger in our wallets until they become totally unreadable.

I can monitor traffic flow on the map display in my car.  The roads are highlighted in either green, yellow, or red to indicate the speed of the traffic ahead in real time.  This heads up has allowed me to go around heavy traffic by getting off a few exits sooner, and taking side roads.

Last Thursday morning an alert went off in my car as I was driving home on the Pike.  "Low Tire Pressure" the alert read on the dash board.  I was puzzled.  Just two weeks before I had replaced all four tires at C&R Tire.  Not willing to write the alert off as being an overly zealous alarm, I pulled into the service plaza in Charlton, and added a bunch of air to the right rear tire that was the culprit  I then headed west again toward exit 9.  When I got off the Pike,  I made a bee line to C&R Tire.  Mike took me right in.  They found that the tire had been punctured, but whatever did it had left the building.  It was no longer in the tire. They patched the hole, and I was on my way.

Technology had saved my bacon that morning.  Being a rear tire, I did not feel a change in the way the car was handling like I would have had it been a front tire.  By the time I heard that "thump-a-thump-a-thump" it would have been time to pull over.  Changing a tire on the Turnpike is something I do not wish on anyone.

I downloaded the UPS app to my phone before Christmas.  The app alerts me when a package has been shipped to anyone in our household, when the delivery date will be, and an approximate time.  I have the option to adjust the delivery date in case we won't be home, or to have the package delivered to a neighbor.  I can even ask to have the package delivered to another door.

These are just little examples of how little bits of technology have subtly crept into my life over the past few months.  Ten years ago their arrival would have been highlighted on the evening news, but today, the only acknowledgment they get is maybe an acknowledging smile, or a comment at the app store.

We are no longer blown away by what has become everyday technology.  We accept it into our lives, and actually expect it to only get better.

Dash cameras for cars other than for law enforcement will be big this year.  Credit card security will be huge.  I see credit cards being issued with a generic number on the front of the card to identify the you, but each time the card is swiped at the point of sale, only a secure, random, one time account number will be generated.  No longer can your card be compromised from its data being hacked at the register.  The same will be true for online purchases, and some banks already offer the random, one time numbers that are linked to your account.

Each time we are confronted with a problem, or issue, that technology could make better, safer, more convenient, more portable, more secure, or, more fun someone will develop a way to do it.  Most of the ideas, and developments, don't go far after conception, but for the ones that do, they will wiggle their ways into our lives.  We will accept them, and eventually, not do without them.

For those of you old enough to remember, think of how your day was in 1977.  You awoke to an irritating electric alarm clock, poured coffee from a percolator, listened to the AM radio in the kitchen, or the car for the weather, hoped the tire store took checks,  made sure you had change in your pocket to use in the payphone to call for a ride home, and took the package that that you ordered from the Sears catalog inside after the mailman jammed it in the mailbox.

That is all so familiar.  So expected, and normal, yet today, it is also medieval.

Here is something you can do today to make the day a bit more fun, make a mental note of all the little pieces of technology that you are exposed to that would not have been there 2, 5, 10, 25 years ago. They are everywhere, and for the most part, so ingrained in our everyday world, we barely notice them.  Everything from digital sign boards on the Pike telling us how many miles to the next interchange, and how long it will take you to get there, to the weather alert you just received on your phone.

How has technology made your life easier?  Or, has it?  Are you saving time?  Healthier?  Safer?  More aware of your finances?  More entertained? Is life more convenient?

Or, do you wish you could just go off the grid, and pretend it is 1974 all over again?


  1. Being born in 1976 i guess i am in a bit of a different generation when it comes to technology. Many times i wish the IPhone was not such an integral part of my life. Outside of work its a pretty handy thing for all the reasons you posted above. One bad thing is that work is never really over anymore. The emails, test messages and voice mails never end. Its tough to really not be working.

    I was pondering technology the other day and was going to ask my dad about it. I was wondering what older folks thought about it. Where did people growing up in the 50's think we would be with technology? I have no idea. Now when it comes to me thinking about the future. There really is no limit to where we will be. All the Sci Fi movies seem within reach now. There really wont be any surprises at all. Flying cars that use water as fuel, why not...

  2. Growing up with early 1950’s technology:

    Some families had electric record players. Some even still used the old crank-up 78 rpm record players with iron or cactus needles.

    Some who were lucky had, small-screened, black and white TV’s, while others still had radios only. There were only a few television channels and only a few programs from which to select, but we were happy to have them and looked forward to our favorites each week. Adults would gather at a local home with a TV to watch Texico Star Theater, “the fights”, or whatever else they enjoyed.

    We had party lines, which meant that 3 or 4 families shared a telephone line. Each family had its own phone number, and its own number of rings. Anyone who lifted the receiver, when a neighbor who shared the line was using his phone, could hear the other people’s conversations.

    Some had a family car. (There was no means of communication in that car.) Others rode the bus, or, if they really, really needed it called a taxi cab.

    Some families owned a set of Encyclopedias. Some, had access to the town library. If you were a student and had no good reference books in your home and no way to get to the library, and you hadn’t listened carefully to your teacher’s explanation in class of something you couldn’t find again or understand from your schoolbook, you had better hope you weren’t called upon in class, or weren’t having a test the next day.

    Communicating with friends was done in person. If you chose to do that during class you either whispered or passed notes, and probably got caught doing so.

    Most people had modern bathrooms, but many had only cold water, and heated water on the stove to warm water for a bath.

    Refrigerators were often still called ice-boxes.

    Washing machines didn’t automatically wring out the clothes. You had to manually feed the wet clothes through the wringer, which, if not done correctly, would rip the buttons off the shirts and dresses.

    Young children played with dolls, toy trucks, and mud pies. As they got older they amused themselves with pens and pencils, and board games and such. Teenager’s thought it was a hoot to send and receive toilet paper letters. We would write on each sheet and then roll it back up, pack it up, and mail it at the post office.

    Stoves were used for cooking meals. There were no microwave ovens, and, here in town, fast food places were unheard of. The pharmacy in Fiskdale had a soda fountain. Then, Rom built “The Dairy Spot” and it was such a treat to get ice cream there!

    Was life better then? Is it better now? I don't know how others feel, but I do love having the world at our finger tips on the internet. Being able to learn about other cultures and making friends all around the world has to be a good thing, uniting us all in ways we never would have imagined when I was a child.

  3. Marilyn, I agree with you. As much as the memories are wonderful, and we all yearn for a simpler time some days, the ability to access information in moments in order to make here and now decisions is something Like. Not just like, but enjoy, expect, and rely on. No longer does the name of a song escape me -- I just turn on Sound Hound. A few key words and I can place the face on the screen with the name. I'm not George Jetson yet, but someday...

  4. I think as I stand at the threshold of Senior Citizendom, that my generation best appreciates what technology has to offer. Our kids, those born in the last quarter of the previous century take the various technological marvels for granted, and I find that folks even just 10 years older than me, those in their early 70's shun it. I remember my mother and father cutting a piece of black electrical tape and placing it over the flashing time on their VCR, totally clueless and in fact disinterested in learning how to adjust it. They would now be in their late eighties if they were still with us. I was exposed to it having worked in the technology sector all of my life. I think that I like you Wally embrace it, welcome it, revel in it! I remember obtaining the first ( and really expensive!) hand held calculator, a Hewlett-Packard HP-35 with its confounding "Reverse Polish Notation" (35+) and just marveling at the fact that I could put down the slide rule and do everything on this little box. It set a precedence in college when taking exams. How was one student able to complete his exam in a fraction of the time with an exact answer out many decimal places while others slaved over their slide rule and vernier and a reasonably close number. It was literally a technological miracle.

    Then came my first digital watch. It was probably a second generation model with LCD readout. I remember often watching transfixed as the seconds ticked by, and often using the stop watch function for my work. Much later, probably in the late 80's I obtained a calculator watch that did way more than my thousand dollar hand help HD-35 once did.

    By the early 80's, the technology genie was out of the bottle and running rampant. For Christmas 1983, my parents presented me with a portable VCR and camera. I was a big movie taker prior to this, and this new gadget changed how I was able to "take pictures" of the family events. I'd lug this box on one shoulder and the TV news reporter type camera on the other. People looked at me oddly and asked questions. It was truly amazing.

    Then came CD's to replace my vinyl collection. I still have an early CD of The 1812 Overture on which the case had big warnings "Caution: Digital Cannons!" One shot at high volume could send your speaker cone flying out of the enclosure. My friends marveled at the sound quality of my system, and it felt good to again be in the technological spotlight for a moment until everyone caught up.

    Then came DVD's and the VCR quickly died. Then in 2001 came my first GPS, a Garmin with a small black and white screen and the ability to cover one region of the US at a time. Up until then, I carried maps of the east coast from Philadelphia to New England in the seat pocket. If I saw county maps at a rest stop, I'd pick it up so I could negotiate the local roads if there were backup on the interstates. Now this little box would allow me to merely get off the first exit and it would calculate a new solution to our journey home.

    Satellite radio. Here's one that allows me to travel 250 miles while listening to the same "radio station". I had been doing this since 2005, again and early adopter to the technology. Now though, I find myself listening to music off the internet while driving around courtesy of my smart phone and an unlimited data plan, and to top it off it sends it to my vehicle's sound system wirelessly by Bluetooth.

  5. Passion sometimes requires words, I ran out of space in my post above........

    I did balk at one item though. When I first saw it, I though "Why would anyone want one of those?" That was in the late 90's, but it has turned out to be my most favorite technological tool of any. They will need to pry it from my cold, lifeless hands. ....and that is my cell phone/smart phone. It can literally do everything all of those things I mentioned above and more. It's truly a technological marvel of the new millennium.

    For me, I revel in the light of technology. It's wonderful and I don't take it for granted. Rather I pick up the new device and I examine it, and I remember what it was like before it was around. I think my wife would refer to me at the "Technology Poster Boy" ...err Man.

  6. I did balk at one item though. When I first saw it, I thought "Why would anyone want one of those?" That was in the late 90's, but it has turned out to be my most favorite technological tool of any. They will need to pry it from my cold, lifeless hands. ....and that is my cell phone/smart phone. It can literally do everything all of those things I mentioned above and more. It's truly a technological marvel of the new millennium.

    For me, I revel in the light of technology. It's wonderful and I don't take it for granted. Rather I pick up the new device and I examine it, and I remember what it was like before it was around. I think my wife would refer to me at the "Technology Poster Boy" ...err Man.


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