There have been few major inventions in the past 100 years. There have been thousands of engineering feats; however, and that is what a lot of people think of when the think of innovation and invention. The phone was invented 150 years ago or so, but now the data is transferred differently through brand new apparatuses. We’ve had planes and cars and microwaves and toasters and washing machines and air conditioners and the television for quite some time. They perform better today because of engineering.
Until teleportation is available I don’t want to hear about inventions.
And of course we have the computer. The internet and the computer are very sophisticated calculators connected to one another via data cables. But the cool stuff we’ve figured out since this nuttiness started has helped in ways I think some people have taken a bit for granted.
Here are five of my favorite engineering feats, on and off the computer, that have changed my life for the better.
Caller ID. First it was a little box that hooked up to your phone. Then, phones came with the little screen that showed the number of the person on the other end. Within a few years, every stupid little cellphone and clunky home phone had one. It is hard to remember a time when you had to answer the phone quizzically to find out who was on the other end. Screening calls was all we had in the eighties. You had to let the phone go to your answering machine to see if it was your crabby old grandma, bill collector number 4, that old girlfriend you were dodging or a job offer you were desperate to hear back from.
Now, you hear the phone ring (unless you have a stylized ring, which is also handy) and you read a number. And if they block the number to stay a mystery…screw them. No more crank calls or a-holes trying to harass you or torment your sister. Awesome.
Digital Cameras. Oh crap. I can’t see anything in this picture. It’s too light, it’s too dark, some big fat thumb is stuck right in the middle. Now, I’ll have no memories of the Seventeenth Annual Pork Rind and Johnnycake Festival in Eighty-Eight, Kentucky.
Digital cameras have made getting cheap prints harder but the quality is so much better. Honestly, we can delete all that garbage of the uneaten Thanksgiving turkey and the Christmas tree and we can save the five or ten best snapshots. The ones without the holiday sweaters with nog stains
YouTube. I was slow to warm up to YouTube. I just didn’t have too much at stake. Then one day I realized my endlessly trivial brain now has a video component on them interwebs. Its not enough for me just to know the theme to The Fact of Life or what the old BooBerry commercials were like, now I can see them replayed in all their retarded eighties glory.
Google Maps / MapQuest. Good Lord. When we moved to Oregon, we had NO idea where anything was. It’s one thing to be on vacation in a new spot and have to find the beach or the tourist attraction or the ancient ruins, but we didn’t know where to find the grocery store. Then, when it was time to get a license, file this and that, go to someone’s office, troll for jobs…we had no idea how to pronounce the towns let alone drive to them. Google Maps gives a route AND a reverse route which might be the greatest gift of all. If you can’t go back from whence you came and you are a million miles from home...well…I know I was screwed. We used these sites daily for a year.
DVR. If there is one on this list tht is 100% irreversible, it is the DVR, or the Tivo for those of you with the name brand. It records shaws and saves them and enables you to speed through commercials and crap you don’t want. But most importantly and life altering – it pauses live TV. How the hell did we watch TV at all without this? We used to run home to catch shows and if you missed it, suck it! It was over!
You can back it up and freeze and unfreeze and watch the cool tackle or hear the joke you missed because one of you kids farted really loud and the room erupted into laughter. It is an absolute good.
Teleportation. I’ll have to remember that. I can go on for days about that one…