Sunday, August 30, 2015

Tech Yeah

I wrote recently of my confrontation with the future, and especially about a computer program that nearly defeated me. I want to correct any impression I might have given of being opposed to progress and uncomfortable with new ideas. I’m not. I only want to be sure that what I do embrace is useful, workable, and at least moderately necessary. I have, for instance, in the last month, discovered what all this "sent from my phone" tagging is all about. I have finally, after years of saying I was completely at home with my flip-phone, taken the leap to what is known (probably to all of you) as a smart phone. It is.

I can tell the phone to take me somewhere, and provided there is service (not here where we live), a pleasant, easily understood voice, emanating from a speaker in the headliner of my car, will take me mile after mile, turn by turn, error correction by error correction ("At the first available opportunity, make a U-turn") guiding me to where I think I want to be. Charming! And it will display the route on a screen on the dashboard. Unless I’m in reverse, in which case I get a real-time image of what I’m backing into. Getting into a parking space or my garage is as easy as looking at you, kid.

Which brings me (propels me) into the future. What next? Next is, in limited mode, already here. From U-haul to Haul-U is I guess the best way to express it: self-driving cars. Now that’s not a new concept, and in fact it isn’t even a concept any longer. It’s a reality. Some of you are, I’m sure, old enough to recall at least hearing about "The World of Tomorrow." At the 1939 World’s Fair there were self-driving cars you could ride in, on a closed course with no deviation permitted. It was a dream. In the 1950s, when I worked for a national business organization, one of my jobs was to accompany a slide show to national business meetings to present our own version of the future, and it included that World of Tomorrow promise of the self-driving car. And promise it was. Now it’s happening. As a competition driver, as a business traveler, as a tourist, the idea of a self-driving car had little appeal. I like driving, we both do, and traveling thousands of miles in our car is something we enjoy. And we want to keep on doing it.

A little more history: when my mother graduated from high school in the early 1920s, her first job was in the office of the local Chevrolet dealer. Women were just coming to driving at that time, and as an adjunct to her secretarial duties, she was called on to teach other women how to drive. She continued driving, accident and incident free until she was 90. At that time she surrendered her license (but not her car), explaining to me that she felt she was too old to drive safely (though her eyesight, hearing and mental acuity remained competent). Some years later I discovered that when she went to take her license renewal test she evidently scared the inspector by running off the road, bursting a tire, and forcing him to call for assistance to get her back to the office. And that prospect, being considered too old to drive, is there before me as I get older. And I don’t like the prospect. So I embrace the new technology.

We live far from any form of public transportation. We also live beyond cell-phone range. The idea of getting into the car and simply telling it where I want to go is a comforting view of the future.

I don’t want to be one of those automobile safety recalls.

Tech, yeah!

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