SEPTEMBER 17, 2016 -- BY JIM NEFF
THE NEFF ZONE
TECHNOLOGY MARCHES ON
Technology is only technology if it was invented after you were born. Otherwise, it's just the way things have always been.
Children entering kindergarten right now will never look up a topic in a paper encyclopedia, they will just Google it. They most likely will never enter a booth to make a phone call because personal cell phones have always existed. They probably will never see a person pull out a pocket watch to check the time because a phone is now the modern day equivalent of a pocket watch. They will never see, let alone touch, a mechanical manual typewriter. And 65 percent of the jobs in which they will be employed do not exist yet. (https://en.richardvanhooijdonk.com/the-future-of-work-and-jobs-that-do-not-yet-exist/)
I thought about this when I came upon a news item about the demise of a simple piece of “technology” – the headphone jack. Starting with Apple's iPhone 7 (and just about every other company's phones), the wired headphone jack will be kaput. There will be adapters for your wired earphones, but the push is toward wireless Bluetooth headsets.
Blame the march of technology for this. “The jack that everyone’s whining about is 52 years old. The cylinder that accommodates your headphone jack is now among the thickest components of your phone! It’s thicker than the screen guts, the circuit board, or the battery. The headphone jack is what’s preventing phones from getting any thinner. It’s the limiting factor.” (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/david-pogue-says-kill-iphone-headphone-jack-201212228.html)
The panic you will hear about relates to Apple wanting you to buy Bluetooth earbuds for an extra $159 (beyond the cost of the phone itself). Yahoo Tech says: “We're not saying Apple's new AirPods feature the most incomprehensibly, embarrassingly awful design of any smartphone accessory we've ever seen...(but) we're already hanging our heads in shame at the thought of people walking around in public with these hideous wireless earbuds poking out of their ears.” (https://www.yahoo.com/tech/hilarious-accessory-reminds-us-atrocious-apple-airpods-140610259.html)
Interesting is that headphone/earphone companies are welcoming the change. “You won’t hear any headphone companies complaining about the move. Most of them have already been preparing for this change for months, and those who haven’t don’t particularly care about plugging into an iPhone in the first place.” (http://www.theverge.com/2016/9/9/12859858/no-headphone-jack-iphone-7-reaction)
I can assure you this change is no biggie. For once I am ahead of the curve as I have been using wireless Bluetooth earphones for more than a year. I have a set of LG Tone Pro earphones. The design is a slim plastic half-circle unit that goes around your neck (several brands use this same concept). Attached to that by 6-inch wires are the earbuds. The unit is feather light and comfortable, has touch controls for my phone's radio/music, has a microphone and button for making and receiving phone calls, and is virtually impossible to lose while you are wearing them. The sound is phenomenal. I bought them on sale for $39. (http://www.lg.com/us/mobile-phones/tone/index)
The demise of the headphone jack caused me to recall some of the other things that were considered “technology” when they debuted during my lifetime.
Coincidentally, last Saturday was the anniversary of the TV Dinner. For you whippersnappers, a TV Dinner was a full meal on an aluminum cooking tray (with separate compartments for each item) that you popped in the oven. Debuting in 1953, TV Dinners were a huge hit because in 25 minutes you could “prepare” a full high-tech meal and eat it while watching television in the living room. FYI, the first TV Dinner was a Thanksgiving feast consisting of turkey, sweet potatoes, peas, and cornbread dressing. All of this for 98 cents. (http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2014/09/5_things_you_never_knew_about.html)
I also remember a piece of technology that horrified the nuns at Flint St. Luke's elementary school – the ballpoint pen. Now, ballpoints pens had been around since the 1880s, but the ink was spotty and various manufacturers failed to make pens reliable enough for mass use. It was not until Bic pens debuted in the late 1950s that a reliable and inexpensive ballpoint pen was mass produced. (http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2014/12/10/the-evolution-of-modern-ballpoint-pen-a-patent-history/id=52550/)
Up until then, the pen of choice for school children was the fountain pen. This had a bladder that was deflated/inflated by use of a lever on the side. Ink was sucked into a bladder and then flowed out through a channel in a nib (pen point). The problem with this was that the ink took a while to dry, so left handers would smear the ink as they dragged their hand over what they had written. At St. Luke's this would result in a nun forcing lefties to learn to write with their right hand.
Later, plastic ink cartridges were introduced to take the place of the bladder, but the wet ink was still a problem. Ballpoints solved this, but we were not allowed to use them. To do so meant incurring the wrath of the nuns, who believed the ballpoint tips would leave scratches on our desks. The process was simple. Use a ballpoint; get punished. We knew better than to fight the nuns when it came to penmanship. As they told us: “Children and serial killers print, adults write in cursive.”
Technology continues to amaze me and most of all when an advancement is seemingly small but actually large all at the same time. Have you ever forgotten your password(s)? Have you ever been frustrated when you can't log into something because the password you need is on a lost scrap of paper or was changed by someone else (who can't remember either)? Now imagine trying to get a classroom of five year-olds all logged in at once.
Technology to the rescue! New on the scene is a product called Clever Badges, currently in use in over 4,500 schools in the U.S. “The idea is fairly straightforward: schools that currently work with Clever can print out badges with unique QR codes for each student, who can wear the badge around the neck. When they sign in via Clever, they simply hold up the QR code in front of the camera. Upon confirmation, students will be logged in and be able to access their suite of learning tools.” (http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2016/09/13/tech-hungry-teachers-transform-classroom/89941852/ and https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-04-19-a-clever-use-of-qr-codes-to-help-students-log-in)
I don't know about you, but I have just one question right now. “Where can I get one of these for my computer and every other device I own?” Tech for the kidlings is fine and dandy, but to my way of thinking every adult in America will want one of these.
Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews.