It’s amazing how much it takes just to “DW”

During this essay on Doug Engelbart’s first public screening of how one of the first computers worked, not only did he amaze people with what he had accomplished, but he also made me realize how something that can be so menial can take so much effort inside of a computer. While I was reading this piece, multiple things came to mind, other than the fact that it took me about 10 minutes to read about deleting a word on a computer screen, when in reality it takes 85 milliseconds for the action to occur.

In the introduction to this essay by Noah Wardrip-Fruin, he compares and contrasts Engelbart’s original plans for this computer-operating system and what actually comes of it all. For example, Engelbart and ARC worked on the concept of tools and computer users being able to develop their own and enhance tools made by other users. In reality, the system led to a “user-friendly” computer, which is still present today with most computers such as an Apple computer. Engelbart also wanted people to be able to work together and solve complex problems through a interconnected network that had multiple computers feeding into one big database. He thought that if people could expand on others’ work, more solutions would be created for problems and a lot more could be accomplished. However, at first, people didn’t think his network idea would catch on because no one wanted to share their brilliant ideas nor did they want to share their plans that did not live up to their expectations. I don’t know how long it took for people to realize that one day Engelbart would be considered right, but Engelbart seems to be the father of the Internet.

I was intrigued, if not confused, by all of the steps during this essay that showed me what really happens in the heart of a computer when you hit a button, especially one as simple to us as the “delete” button. No one ever thinks about the person who came up with all of these intricate happenings, because it’s always been there, or at least with my generation where elementary school children know how to work computers and cell phones better than their parents at times. And with this being written in 1968, I can’t help but wonder if we’ve really progressed as much as Engelbart thought we would. I mean, everyone thought we would have flying cars by now, and that obviously didn’t happen. In the defense of technology, we do now have multiple functions, such as touchscreen, voice-activation settings, and other things that have really made life easier, but there is only so much modern-day technology can do without making the human being close to worthless. Yes, we may think that having a computer that can do everything for us is a great idea, but all I can think of when I think of this is in the Disney Pixar movie Wall-E, when everyone who lives in the space station rides around on hover-chairs and just eat all day long.

To me, it is very important that people don’t depend too much on technology to run their lives, because we will eventually find out that technology cannot do certain things. By having technology that is too advanced, we will lose our ability to be independent and to learn new things without the aid of a how-to video or a tutorial that comes with a package. We’ve already made multiple things obsolete with the advancement of technology, such as VCR’s and non-smart phones, and with the direction we’re going, humans are slowly making themselves somewhat obsolete in certain aspects.

2 thoughts on “It’s amazing how much it takes just to “DW”

  1. I definitely agree that we take for granted a lot of the things computer can do. It used to be that you have to jump through 5 hoops to “backspace” a character on a word processor. We definitely should utilize technology to AUGMENT our abilities, but not in reliance to them. I think technology can help us be to be more than what we are, but we must be careful that we become less than what we are without them.

  2. I completely agree with you about relying on backspace! I honestly don’t think I can go a minute without deleting at least a few characters from my screen (I just tried…and failed.) But what you said about our advancements really intrigued me. You’re absolutely right — in some ways, we aren’t nearly as advanced as people 50 years ago might have expected, but I also agree with you that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For one, I’m glad that we still have people-to-people customer service, instead of a computer or robot that would digitally (or electronically) helps someone. Some would argue that it would get the job done, and I’d be hard-pressed to disagree with them from an objective standpoint. However, to me, there is something to be said for human-to-human interaction, and it can never be replaced by a computer (no matter how “smart” said computer is). I know that might not have been exactly where you were going when you wrote this, but your post called this to mind.

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