Technology–Changing the Staples of Our Daily Lives

August 13, 2009 at 2:19 pm (Computers, Internet surfing, Technology) (, , )

I recently ran across a joke book that must have been written before I was born (I’m 23, in case you wondered). I know we’ve owned it more than 10 years. It was very interesting to read it–the comparison of humor now and then really surprised me. One section was called Why Don’t They Invent…. I was shocked to find a few of them had been invented: invisible braces, a robot pet dog, a car with built-in direction finder (gps), dictionary computer (spellcheck)!

Technology has never failed to surprise us. It changes our lives dramatically in a matter of a few years, sometimes without us even realizing it–until we stop and consider how it used to be. Oh yeah…… wow.

Here are a few things that we once considered a staple, something we couldn’t do without even as little as 10 years ago. How many of these things do you hardly ever use anymore?

1. Calendars and Day Planners. I can’t remember the last time I bought or wrote on a physical paper calendar. Cell phones, palm pilots, and several computer programs, like Microsoft Outlook now cover all of our appointment and scheduling needs.

2. Address Books and Phonebooks. Again, got it covered with the cell phone! The Internet provides multiple ways to access business addresses and phone numbers in the whole world, including maps to get there and pictures, etc. Facebook is another growing venue that allows a way to contact friends and aquaintences quickly, or list full contact information directly.

3. Cassette/CD players. This one may still be up for debate. Cellphones, computer media players, Ipods, mp3 players, and audio streaming from the Internet are quickly claiming the music playing audience with broader availability and better quality.

4. Newspapers. Again, not obsolete, but access to Internet services has opened a large, not to mention free, door for readers who at one time depended solely on their morning folded up paper on the front porch to stay informed.

5. Dictionaries and Encyclopedias. I remember the heavy volumes of World Book Encyclopedia and finding my topic after some time–either because I wasn’t sure where to look or I kept getting distracted by the pictures from other entries! Technology has added so much vocabulary, like “googled” and “add-ons” that it is difficult for the printed volumes to keep up! Websites like Wikipedia.com and Dictionary.com have transformed our research habits.

6. Calculators, Adding Machines, and Conversion Charts. Software programs have replaced these items for home, school, and office uses. Search engines and search boxes in browsers can now query conversions and calcuations instantly.

7. Microsoft Clip Art. Remember when you used clip art for posters and cards? Image searches on the Internet have by far replaced the role of the primitive collection of a person sitting at a desk and a piece of cake.

8. Film Cameras. Who wants to run to Walmart and wait several hours when you can load and print your pictures in five minutes at home? Digital cameras now offer the quality of a 35mm, but with zoom, black and white, timed shots, and, my favorite, the preview! You know right then and there if dad’s eyes were closed!

9. Wooden Pencils (and pencil sharpeners). Remember how loud the “roy, roy, roy” of the pencil sharpener at the front of the classroom was in the middle of a test? Wooden pencils  are still useful to artists, but the rise of mechanical pencils have made them less popular for schoolwork. Now students can submit homework electronically and type up their papers on computers. 

10. Watches. This one could be up for debate because of their use as a fashion accessory. However, many would agree that much fewer people use a watch as a necessity, as cell phones and computers nearly always display the correct time.

Count up your total! How many of these items are still a part of your daily life?

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Optimizing Your Search Engine Experience With Google

June 17, 2009 at 2:00 pm (Internet surfing) (, , , , , )

Google has become a widely popular and prominent authority in the search engine world. Finding the right website for many topics is relatively easy on Google, but sometimes a simple keyword search doesn’t bring the answer right away. Obscure topics, past events, and genre-specific searches sometimes take a little more effort. Google has additional features that you may find helpful for your extensive research.

Google shows the most popular ways to refine your search at the top of the page, such as Images, Maps, and Shopping. If you click on “more”, you’ll see some additional queries that may interest you, such as Finance or Blogs. The “even more>>” link will display all of the search options and special features Google offers. Each item has a short description if you are not familiar with these features.

Suppose you want to research a certain topic with which you are unfamiliar and which has many subtopics and fields you want to explore. At the top of the results listed for your search query, you will see the “Show options…” link. This displays a sidebar to the left with additional search tools.

In the first section you can view videos, forums or reviews of your topic. You can specify when the page was added/updated in the next section for results with recent articles. The third section changes how the view of the search results to show pictures or more text to determine if you want to peruse that website further.

The fourth section shows four more research tools: “Related searches” show common topics related to your search. The “Wonder wheel” shows related topics on spokes with your topic in the center. For example, if you’re searching for “apples”, the wonder wheel shows “apples nutrition” and “apple types”. If you click on a sub category, it becomes the main category and shows more subheadings. Clicking on “apple types” brings up “apple varieties baking” and “sweet apple varieties”. When you find the topic you’re looking for, switch back to standard view to see websites from this topic.

Lastly, Timeline shows the popularity of your topic over time and shows select search results in chronological order. You can also click on parts of the time line to get month to month results from a certain year, etc. The earliest results show excerpts from books written in the first millennium.

With all of these handy features, there’s little question why Google has become a name brand for search engines. Try it out and experience the world of Google search at its finest.

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