2011-02-16 / Editorials

Other Voices

Technology rules
Mitch Clarke

Helen, my GPS lady, and I have been getting along very well since we’ve been together. She does a great job of helping get wherever I need to go, and I enjoy using the voice controls to have her change the radio station or turn on the heater.

People who know me aren’t surprised that I’ve come to depend on Helen. I’ve always been something of a technology geek. I like having the latest gadgets and gizmos.

In college, as editor of the student newspaper, I pushed to make our newsroom one of the first in the state to use video-display terminals instead of IBM Selectric typewriters.

When I worked at the Macon paper, I was one of the first reporters to use the Internet. I was the first of my friends to get a personal computer, and among the first to get an e-mail address.

Of course, because so few of my friends had email addresses, I might go several days without getting an e-mail. I long for those days. Today, I get about 100 e-mails a day at work.

I was one of the first of my friends to have a cell phone. I had a BlackBerry before anyone really knew what one was. I remember friends marveling at the fact that I could get email on my telephone.

So no one was surprised when I upgraded my car to a model that included Helen. But now, there are a couple of new automotive advancements that seem to make Helen seem hopelessly dated.

For instance, one new car allows the GPS lady to tell you the newest things your friends have posted on your Facebook page. You simply press a button on your rearview mirror and the GPS lady reads you the latest status updates of your friends.

Another car company allows you to download an app to your cell phone that lets you start your car, or lock and unlock the doors right from your phone.

I’m not sure why I can’t wait til I get home to see what’s new on Facebook. Or why I need my cell phone to open the door since, certainly, the dealer gave me a key when I bought the car. But there they are. And I’m certain lots of folks can’t wait to get these options. I, on the other hand, am not so sure about this.

Despite my love of technology, this is the not first time I questioned the logic behind some new idea. I hated the option of having my paycheck directly deposited into my checking account when it was first offered to me. I liked actually handing the teller my check and asking her to deposit it for me. I later came around, when the newspaper I was working at required it of every employee.

I also questioned why anyone would want to use a keyless remote control to unlock the doors of a car. After all, even with the remote, you still have to pull the handle, which is right next to the lock, to open the door. Why in the world would anyone need to unlock the door from 10 or 20 feet away?

Then I bought a car that came with a keyless remote, and I haven’t used a key to open a door since. I wish the front door of my house came with such a device.

What I’m saying is that I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m sometimes wrong. I was wrong about direct deposit. I was wrong about keyless remotes. I could very well be wrong about getting Facebook updates from Helen.

Maybe these new ideas will catch on. Maybe they won’t. But at least the new ideas are continuing to pop up. Eventually, one will be launched that we can’t live without.

For instance, the technology I really want to see is a GPS lady that can drive the car while I take a nap.

Mitch Clarke is executive editor of The Times. His column appears Sundays. Read previous columns at gainesvilletimes.com/ mitch. Follow him on Twitter @MitchTimes.

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