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Apr 21, 2014







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Give thanks to gadgets
Being grateful for modern technology

By John Andrews jandrews@hippopress.com



This is the time of year when we appreciate all that we have. I could tell you all about the people in my life, but that’s really not why you read this here column, is it?

And, looking through my past writings, apparently the last time I did this was 2007. So it’s definitely time. What am I particularly grateful for this year, in no particular order?

USB: The Universal Serial Bus is just four pins of wonderful as far as I’m concerned. It supports everything from input peripherals and storage to more exotic gadgets like smartphones and medical devices. Before USB, peripherals had to be connected to parallel or serial ports, which were not only larger but also harder to manage. They came with dedicated hardware addresses, and you could pretty much forget about swapping devices in and out. If you were lucky, you had a SCSI port, which had its own hardware addressing system to confuse people. Now, the USB system loads and unloads drivers for you when you connect or disconnect devices, so there are no conflicting hardware addresses and everybody’s happy. Oh, and speaking of which…

Device drivers: These little bits of software are what make our hardware work. They come on CDs with the new stuff we buy, though realistically we have to get the most up-to-date versions from the manufacturer Web sites. Without drivers, our computers would have no clue what to do with the doodads we plug into USB (or FireWire, or SCSI, etc.) ports. Drivers tell the operating system exactly what type of device we’ve attached, what its capabilities are, and how to control it.

Touchscreens: The whole mobile revolution we’ve seen over the past couple years, what with smartphones and tablets showing up everywhere, would not be possible without sensitive, responsive touchscreens. And they wouldn’t be possible without the conductivity of our fingertips, unless we used either a cumbersome stylus or less effective pressure-sensitive touchscreens. It really is almost magic that our bodies can interact so intimately with our electronic devices. And of course, we’d hardly be able to carry tablets around without…

Wireless broadband Internet access: I could be talking about Wi-Fi routers linking us to our wired connections at home, or I could mean service provided by cellular companies while we’re out and about. Either way, being untethered is essential to the way we use our devices now — in the kitchen for looking up recipes and playing streaming music; in bed for catching up on e-mail before rising; keeping in touch while walking from place to place. Can you imagine having to plug into an Ethernet jack every time you wanted to connect to the Internet? For that matter, can you imagine going without…

Batteries: Plugging in our laptops and phones all the time wouldn’t be just inconvenient, it would run counter to the whole way they’re designed. They’re meant to be used on the go, without wires of any kind. Shackling them to a power outlet would destroy their utility. As much as we complain about the limited time our batteries give us, they should be appreciated for all the time they do offer.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Tweet your turkey pics to @CitizenjaQ on Twitter.






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