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Progress is not our most important product

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

Progress is not our most important product

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1990, The Syracuse Newspapers

If you don't own the latest and greatest computer system, you're a hopeless nerd.

That's the way computer manufacturers want you to feel. They make improved models every year, and they want you to believe that these longer, lower, wider, faster and better-looking computers are essential to your emotional well-being.

There's nothing wrong with progress, of course, but enough is enough. I became convinced of that when I had to abandon my fancy-dan laptop computer and use an old-model computer for a couple of weeks.

The old computer had a 40-column display instead of the 80-col screen that most of us are used to, and it wasn't able to deal with files longer than 180 kilobytes. It didn't have a hard-disk drive, and it didn't have all the helpful programs I've installed on my laptop-a spelling corrector, a syntax checker, a high-tech file-transfer program, a fast text-reading system and a program that compresses or expands files in an instant.

But so what? Those things don't make me write any better. To be sure, it's nice to have a normal, 80-column display. But writing on the 40-column screen again (I did it for many years until computers got better) reminded me of the importance of knowing what you've just said and what you want to say next; there are so few words on the screen that you have to rely on your own good memory and your own feeling for the flow of things to keep everything straight.

My laptop is working again, and, besides, I'm back home, where I've got three modern PCs of various types to keep me busy, to check my spelling and compare my sentences with all the rules known to grammarians. That's good, of course.

But is it better?

In some ways, maybe it is. After all, what is progress if we don't take advantage of it?

But then, who says convenience is progress?

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