One of my all-time favorite cartoons addresses the impact of technology on society, and it goes something like this:
There's a drawing of a classroom, with desks in neat rows straight and orderly. But there are no students. Instead, at each desk, there's a cassette recorder set to "record."
Now that's a pretty insightful commentary on how technology is impacting society, but the cartoon gets even better. At the lectern, where the teacher should be standing, there is another cassette recorder — this one set to "play"!
Ain't technology wonderful?
I was thinking about that the other day while we were cleaning out the garage (something I firmly believe in doing every eight years or so, whether it needs it or not). It's surprising what you'll find, too. We found many things: books, a canoe paddle, two sets of guitar strings, more books, a broken chair that we had kept for some reason which no doubt seemed like a good one at the time ... still more books ...
And then, sticking out over there in the corner among the tangle of old Christmas decorations, an ancient camping stove, and still more boxes of books, we saw a small beige corner.
High tech? Kind of boxy? Could it be — yes! It's our very first computer!
First computers are kind of like baby shoes and old telephone bills. You keep them forever, but you're not quite sure why.
But let me tell you, in its day it was one high-tech beast. Sixteen whole Ks of RAM (who would ever need more?) and a nifty little keyboard too! To make it go, you plugged in a cartridge or booted up a 5.25-inch floppy disk (remember those?) and then set about zapping aliens or cataloging recipes (viewing the resulting carnage or order, depending, on a TV screen that connected to the computer through a little silver box) until the cows came home. Ahh, it was a giddy time.
My spouse, not attuned to the subtle sensitivities of such things, looked meaningfully at the trash can.
"Not a chance!" I said, rescuing the little beige box (and a handful of old floppy disks, too, each replete with the promise of binary aliens needing blasting) and rushing it off to safety.
And now, gentle reader, I sit here happily blasting aliens in living black and white, watching the battle unfold on another relic of the good old days — an ancient but venerable black and white TV that I found in the very next box.
Yeah, I should be out there helping in the garage. But I've got this writing to get written, and blasting aliens is so much more fun.
Make fun of my little old (and I do mean old) first computer if you will, but let me tell you that the fledgling technology it represented has grown up to touch every aspect of our lives — even construction.
Just look at the machines in your fleet. I'll bet that almost every one of them utilizes some distant and ultra-sophisticated relative of that ancient computer. The mechanical has given way to the microprocessor, and the result is greater productivity and more profit on your jobs.
And just think about how you communicate. Back in the day, a portable phone was something the size of a suitcase. Today, thanks to all this newfangled technology, your portable phone is so small it gets lost in your pocket.
Designing, estimating, planning, and even building are all areas touched by technology these days.
And some of it really is kind of fun.
Among the most fun is something in downtown Atlanta. It's a digital web camera system (from a company called OxBlue, Inc.) that's followed the progress of the Georgia DOT's 14th Street bridge removal project. Mounted atop a nearby hotel, the system was set up to capture an image of the project ever few minutes and then string those images together to give you a sort of animated view of just what's going on.
Dr. Jochen Teizer, an assistant professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech, and a team of students will be analyzing the data to "look for more efficient techniques to be used in future construction projects."
If you want to check it out yourself (and you really should, as it's pretty interesting!) then fire up the ol' computer and go to http://oxblue.com/pro/open/gatech/14th.
Ain't technology wonderful?