Technology: access or excess

Kathy Williamson | 9/10/2008, 5 p.m.

The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment." ~Warren G. Bennis

Your average 25-year-old does not remember T.V. dinners, or a time when there wasn't a microwave oven. Their world began after rotary dial telephones and record players. Today, DJs make mixed tapes and are hired to supply music to parties and night clubs, not host radio programs--now those DJs are called radio personalities.
These young adults never wore cloth diapers and milk was never delivered to their doors. Gas stations have always been self-serve. And, in most of their lifetimes, the presidents of the United States have either been a Bush or a Clinton.
Your average 50-year-old has probably never flushed a toilet by pulling a chain extended from a ceiling. They have never routinely traveled by cable cars, used a washing machine with wringers or had a drink at a speakeasy. Ladies have always worn pantyhose and never owned a garter belt, much less stockings with seams. They never gathered around a radio to listen to narrated stories laced with sound effects. But, they did listen to the ball games on transistor radios.
Now, consider the average 10-year-old. They do not know a world without cell phones or ATMs (Automated Teller Machine). Skateboards are no longer simply pieces of lumber with ball bearing wheels attached. Helmets have always been required for bike riding. While their parents may have been punished for sneaking off to the arcades, they play their games on home computers or hand held gaming devices (Nintendo, Wii, Playstation).

'You've got mail!'
In the early '90s, AOL (America Online) introduced interactive chat rooms and social networking took off. The new technology was exciting and fast paced. AOL's main competitor was Compuserve, and each had their own loyal fan base. AOL worked better on MACs and Compuserve was the choice of most IBM (PC) users. Eventually Compuserve disappeared.
The initial cost to use the dial-up modem service was several dollars per minute, making online addictions either rare or pricey.
As the technology grew and the cost to users became more affordable, online predators creeped into the open chat rooms and the internet frontier entered a new age of criminal activity which would soon also encompass identity theft.
Modern technology can be the ultimate "big brother," as global strangers electronically access digital maps of our daily lives.

The birth of Google
In the mid '90s, two Stanford University Ph.D. students, Larry Page and Sergy Brin began a research project to create a search engine (seeks information on the Worldwide Web) that analyzed the relationships between Web sites and ranked results according to the number of times that the search engine appeared on a page.
They nicknamed their search engine "BackRub" because it checked backlinks to estimate a site's importance.
The partners originally used the Stanford University Web site: google.stanford.edu. They registered the google.com domain on Sept. 15, 1997. And, at a friend's garage in Menlo Park, California, on Sept. 7, 1998, they formed Google, Inc.
Google's simple design and ease of use quickly attracted a loyal following.
The word "google" was added to the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006 as a verb, meaning "to use the Google search engine to obtain information on the Internet."
Since 2001, Google has acquired several small start-up companies including Pyra Labs (PL), the creators of Blogger, a weblog--personal journaling--publishing platform, first launched in 1999. PL was originally formed by Evan Williams (evhead.com). In early 2006, Google added online word processing, documents and spreadsheets.
In late 2006, Google bought online video site YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock.
Most of Google's revenue is derived from advertising programs. For the 2006 fiscal year, the company reported over $10 billion in total advertising revenues
Google also developed an interactive mapping program, "Google Earth," powered by satellite and aerial imagery that covers nearly every corner of the planet. The zoomed-in images are so detailed and accurate, that users have identified relatives and friends standing on their front lawns. However, there are privacy and security issues. Streets, villages, and even military bases can be pulled up in active war torn areas across the globe. Luckily, the images are not updated often, and can be up to two years old.