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Home » SCIENCE AND NATURE in RI » RHODE ISLAND (all topics) » More Technology?
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More Technology?

OPINION - Are All Scientific ‘Advances’ a Good Thing?

By Nicholas H. Kondon | April 20, 2011

Rhode Island is a tiny, crowded state where everyone knows everyone else. So, I am big on privacy and down on devices, apps, and features that solve problems that don’t exist.

A 1948 Black Cadillac

Have you read about the new phones with rear-facing cameras that allow one to “capture materials off a white board?” Wouldn’t a prudent 3G consumer simply turn the old phone around?

The word phone is now a misnomer because the phone’s least important function is calling someone.   In my youth, our family home had a party line.   One ring indicated the call was for the people (one never knew who) with whom we shared the line.   Two rings were for us.   The phone rang maybe twice a week - once for us and once for the unknown people.   It was a comfort knowing we could call Dr. Costas and he’d drive out in his black Cadillac and tell us we were going to live.   And, he was right.

I have a friend (you probably do to) who has been breathless with a low-grade fever since he got an iPad.   He relapses every time he discovers a new use or feature for it.   For example, unsafe as it is for mankind, Steve Jobs put a mercury switch in the Pads.

The iPad

My friend says that’s so the Pads “know” how they are oriented.   Not quite.   Mercury is a semi-solid that is obliged by gravity.   The Pads “know” nada.   The Pads are ruled by the same physics that control your life.

Bend too far right or left, and you’re falling on your fanny.   What keeps you from bumping your head is your brain.   YOU know you’re off balance, and YOU adjust, but push a Pad laying on a table past half it’s length beyond the edge, and what does it “know?” Does it know it’s about to fall 40 inches and crack in half on a tile floor? Uh uh.

On his Pad screen (sorry, display) my friend shows me a printed page with all the pride you’d expect from the author. And then he says,

“Suppose I want to read it like this?”And on the word THIS, he turns the Pad 45 degrees, and the text orients itself to the dumb mercury blob.   Ta da.

The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X which is known as The Brick

Come on.   In 1440 AD Johannes Gutenberg developed movable type.   Go back a little further.   A lot further, really.   In 105 AD the Chinese invented paper, and a crude printing process.

Where am I going with this? Here.   In the course of 2,000 years the number of books, and manuscripts, and forms, and newspapers, and magazines, must number in the very high millions - all oriented vertically.   Read them right to left, left to right, or top to bottom, they are vertical. Who reads a book sideways? How is this a feature?

To me, it’s like being excited by the realization that your shirt is unbuttoned, but that’s just one of its “modes.”

Did you know Facebook has more than a billion faces and Twitter is taking credit for the fall of Hosni Mubarak.   Really? And, why if you use Twitter, are you Tweeting and not Twitting? Billions and billions of people are Facebooking.

Why do people ask me to join Facebook? Aren’t a billion faces enough? What in my life is going to add to this interstellar conversation?

Already these people share information about their lives, diets, families, religious and political beliefs, dress sizes, office crushes, pre-owned cars, smells in their apartment, opinions about Lady GaGa, mouthwash preference, and updates on whether the Imodium is working.

Here’s what I’d like: a letter.   No, a note will do.   A hand-written note.   Ink on paper, in an envelope, with a stamp in one corner, delivered to the mailbox at the end of my driveway.

Mail a Letter!

It doesn’t have to be a long note.   Just enough to show that someone out there can still form Palmer Method capital Ls.   Oh, what a letter is capital L.   Make a Palmer Method L in the air and you feel like an orchestra conductor? L.   L.   L.   Just beautiful.   Brahms, maybe.

Now, text a few Ls.   What do you feel like? Like a contestant on Jeopardy who buzzed in too late.   That’s because anything with a CPU lacks romance, and because the poor CPUs only have two symbols in their entire sorry vocabulary, one and zero.

Here’s the deal.   If you drop me a hand-written note reading:

Dear Jerk,

Won’t you be my Facebook friend?


Your name

Then, add your age, hair color, shoe size, IRA balance as of 12/31/10, and favorite deodorant.   Indicate if you are any of the following: a vegan, Sufi, soap opera fan, lover of astrology, cat-person, sensitive, or undocumented.   Include a photograph, and anything else you’re positive will interest me.   If anyone in your family has been convicted of a capital crime, put that up front and, please say if you use four-ply.

You do this, and I’ll give Facebook serious consideration.   Very serious consideration.

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