Friday 30 Sep 2016

The Future is Now
Matt Seinberg

Do you remember when you were a kid and wished for things that you saw on a TV show? I’m not talking about commercials, but things that looked so cool, and real you wanted to own it?

One of the coolest gadgets I remember is from “Get Smart,” starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon. Agent 86, Maxwell Smart had the shoe phone, and it always seemed to ring at the worst possible moment. Of course, Agent 99 was there to admonish him. Does that scenario sound a little familiar?

How about reading the Dick Tracy comics, and wanting a watch phone? I remember seeing an ad for one recently, so they do exist.

Then, of course, there was one of my favorites, the "Cone of Silence." How many times did you wish you had one in your room, so you and your friends could talk without the parents hearing you? Well, that device exists now and recently featured on an episode of “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.”

Of course, the coolest gadgets were on “Star Trek.” There was the whooshing of sliding doors, "communicators" and, my personal favorite, the transporter. Imagine not taking a plane anymore, but stepping into a booth in your own home, setting the destination and being there in the blink of an eye. There’d be no more long waits at the TSA checkpoint or lost baggage. There’d be no more arriving late because of weather. If you arrive late, it’s your own fault at that point.

Now the transporter is not yet a reality, but the personal communicator certainly is, and in many forms. The most obvious is the cell phone, and it’s really more than just a phone. It’s a personal assistant, music player and companion all rolled into one small device. The only thing it can’t do is cook a meal, but it will find you a place to have one.

Back in 1985 or so, Sharp Electronics made an electronic phone book and calendar that was supposed to replace paper telephone and address books. It cost about $150 and didn’t catch on. I owned one. I found it clunky to use and the battery didn’t last very long. Plus, when you did change the battery, all the stored information was lost.

So let’s move forward again. Today, we have smart phones that will not only make and receive calls, but also let you play games, surf the internet and remind you of anything you have to do, as long as you program it correctly.

Now here are the problems I see in my observations of everyday life. Remember, I watch people, and things they do. That’s my job.

I’ve mentioned one of my pet peeves is people talking on cell phones when they enter stores and how rude it is, so we won’t dwell on that. The worst thing I see are the people talking and driving at the same time, or even worse, trying to send a text message. A steering wheel and knees are not a good combination. That’s what your two hands are for, steering, not talking or texting.

You never saw Captain Kirk use his communicator and steer a spaceship at the same time, did you? Nope, he used a computer interface that responded to his voice to open whatever channel he needed when Lt. Uhura wasn’t around.

Today, we call that a Bluetooth connection. I always wondered if some dentist came up with that name as he was working on someone’s mouth and using that gooey blue stuff to make a mold.

Bluetooth can connect your phone to your car not to make and answer calls, but also to play music. One of the coolest features many GPS devices have Bluetooth built in, so you can connect your phone to it if your car isn’t equipped.

Many TV’s also connect to a Bluetooth headset as well. That’s great if you want to watch TV late into the night, and your bedmate wants to go to sleep. There’d be no more long wires running across the room, tangling you feet as you tiptoe across the room. The worst part is if you fall asleep with the headset and try to roll over and it pulls off your head.

So use technology wisely, and don’t break any laws doing it. The life you save may be your own.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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