Becoming A Communications Junkie

The Personal Computer or PC, invented in 1977, was the star attraction when it became affordable for me in the early 1990s. In the early 80s my wife typed all of my doctoral thesis on a typewriter, a truly tedious task, entailing editing, revisions, and corrections.  But when we could afford it, we purchased a desktop computer. With the snap of a switch our typewriter became obsolete. Our computer became the hit of our home. I used it mainly for word processing, and later, for e-mail and research. Each year, new and improved models flooded onto the market Eventually the PC sold in the tens of millions. My next computer, attached to a printer, purchased in 2004, cost $2,700. This model had more wires and cables than a telephone exchange. I never did figure them out on my own, but the system served me well for 14 years before I replaced it in 2018 for a slick, high-quality laptop with one cable connected to the electrical outlet. It cost me $1,600 less than my previous computer and has much more versatility, capability, and speed.

PCs have, much like TVs, become a vital part of almost everyone’s life. It is arguably the most exceptional communications device of the last 50 years, with the probable exception of the mobile phone. The PC is a versatile device allowing us to write and edit our written work, and, with the press of a button, magically send it anywhere through the air. It allows us to watch movies, listen to music, and send and receive electronic mail (E-MAIL). Numerous users have switched to newer inventions such as FACEBOOK, SKYPE, or TWITTER, as E-MAIL lost its luster for personal use about 2015 when the newer creations became enormously popular communications preferences. FACEBOOK allows us to share frivolous, self-serving messages and personal photos. It serves best as a brag sheet. TWITTER allows us to express opinions and write brief messages. SKYPE, the “picture telephone” invented in 2003, allows people see and talk to one another.  

The computer has made encyclopedias obsolete as we can now search the internet, and find any topic known to humans. The computer can be connected to a printer to provide hard copies of our written work, or print information that we wish to download from the internet. We can access a variety of national and international newspapers, find breaking news, and store documents. It has also glued office receptionists to their laptops, forcing them to barely acknowledge clients who appear for appointments. After a curt hello they frantically return their dazed gaze to the screen.

Modern photocopiers, introduced in 1959 by Xerox, were valuable additions to my office, as to most offices worldwide, as were Fax machines, originally called Electric Printing Telegraphs when first invented in 1843. It took almost 150 years before practical models became commonplace in offices. Although still in use in many offices around the world modern technical improvements have now sidelined to some extent this popular office device because modern computers can perform the task using scanners or printers.

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Dr. James F. McDonald is a retired elementary school principal who lives in Dundas, ON.
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