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January 12, 2013

Josh Drespling: From Tech to Trach in no time flat

NEW CASTLE — Technology and its advancements are much like a mammoth locomotive barreling down on the railroad tracks of time.

A hard-pounding, dubstep soundtrack undulates in unison with the mechanics of the colossal steam engine. The train teeters on the edge of breaking the sound barrier at any given moment and obliterating any barriers that stand in its path. Though this train of consequence may feed the great necessity of progress and development, each piece of contrived, yet essential, electronic and mechanical wizardry will soon meet with its own fate.

In our effort to relate all that exists to the human experience and place man at the center of the universe, we have developed the terms, “dog years” and “cat years.” It has been said that a dog's life is measured in sevenfold. A simplified meaning is that a dog lives one seventh of the time that the average human lives, thus experiencing life at an accelerated pace.

I propose that technology ages at a much more significant speed than our pets. Its fierce march to the grave is pressed forward with great vigor by our ever-growing addiction for instant gratification, overflow of information, and endless entertainment. The sevenfold theory ladened on our pets seems like a vast expanse of time and space when held beside the rate at which our technology becomes obsolete and utterly worthless.

Gordon Moore, one of the founders of the Intel Corp., stated in 1965 that computer power doubles every 18 months. What became commonly referred to as Moore’s Law has held true for nearly a half century and actually had been in progress for nearly 50 years prior, if you include the development of vacuum tube technology and hand-crank adding machines.

These capabilities and computation power have revolutionized the world economy and society as a whole. A Sony Playstation purchased in 2007 for about $300 had the same computing power of a 1997 military super computer that cost in the neighborhood of $1 million. Additionally, it has been noted that the average cell phone in the early 2000s had more computing power than all of NASA had available when astronauts landed on the moon in 1969.

Most every big-box retailer has some type of bin or box that is available for you to drop off your old cell phones for recycling. These hunks of plastic, metal, precious tantalum, and trace amounts of lead are casually tossed away. Today, this formerly coveted consumer merchandise is ready for the trash heap because it has been surpassed by a brighter and shinier model (or so the advertising says).

At work, we have huge containers that are typically overflowing with “recycled” electronics. This mountain of electronics looks like an updated version of “The Island of Misfit Toys” from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. These printers, speakers, computers, monitors, and even TVs are all items that people just had to have and spent hard-earned money on, only to see them tossed aside once a new and better version bursts onto the scene.

Now, I am just as guilty as the next guy when being lured by the newest gadget. I have been good and resisted the urge to take the plunge with a new phone for several years, but I finally broke down and got something new. My new toy (which also makes phone calls) has all the computing power to run Facebook, Words with Friends, and possibly execute a moon landing.

But what do I do with all that unprecedented technology and power? I look at silly cat pictures, fail videos, and argue with strangers, of course.


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