Chained to Technology?

Elizabeth Dubois

Last week I moved across the atlantic. When I arrived at my college the porter gave me my keys and an old yellow phone (you know those landlines that clearly were once white…) I had to cough a laugh down. Who uses a landline anymore? 

On the other hand my Canadian cell didn’t work here, I had no access to a computer and there was no wi-fi to be found (despite how desperately my iPod touch searched).

So I plugged that old yellow phone in.

This was my first call:  “Hey, I’m here! Yes the flight went well. Could you help me out? I have no Internet meaning no google maps so I’m not sure where to go for food, bedding or even to get my computer set up. Is there wireless anywhere nearby, I really need to email mom and dad.”

When journalists and academics talk about the Internet today we often jump straight to social networking and information dissemination. We talk about how social relationships are changing, how news is shared and how people interact. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly think this is a valuable conversation to have (heck, that is what I study!) But there is also something to be said for our everyday uses of modern technology outside of social interaction.

Here are 9 things we would be lost without, even though just one generation ago they didn’t exist.


1. Wi-Fi and 3G – In my mind I should be able to access the Internet anywhere and everywhere. Obviously I have to be willing to pay for it in some instances, but the option should be there. I am continually baffled by areas of non-connectivity.

2. Cell phones – My dad is a software engineer and has used his cell phone less than a dozen times. Mom doesn’t have one. Grandma does but its the size of a brick. I’ve had 2 basic phones, 2 smart phones, and 3 travel phones.

3. Portable music – Can you imagine taking a 30 minute bus ride, 8 hour plane trip or relaxing weekend at the cottage with no music? I sure can’t.

4. Names, not cards – There are some neat business cards out there. Ones with QR codes to link to personal websites, Twitter handles and all kinds of interesting information. But when today’s young professionals are connecting with each other they often need only a first and last name to make the connection. “Facebook me” I say when I don’t have a card.

5. PowerPoint slides – I think it is utterly barbaric when a teacher pulls out his chalk and starts scratching on that old black board. Its hard to read, makes an annoying sound and lets be real – even professors have trouble spelling some times.

Spell Check – all those spelling tests in elementary school? Useless.

6. Maps in a city – OK, FourSquare is cool, geo-tagging — awesome. But without getting super techie on our travels I am willing to bet almost every reader has used GPS or GoogleMaps recently to get around. It seems kind of silly to have a huge map on the side of a street when everyone just has a cell they can pull out. (Not to mention how silly you feel being the person with your head cranked at a funny angle staring at the same map for 20 minutes because you can’t quite place where you actually are).

7. Online check-in – When I first began flying that hour and a half before your scheduled domestic departure they suggest was actually needed. Today however I check-in the night before and show up 30 minutes prior (45 if I am expecting a line up).

8. Online banking – Waiting on the phone for an hour to get your account balance is ridiculous. Going into a branch (particularly when you live in another country) is inconvenient if not near impossible.

9. Digital wallet – Google has just announced their digital wallet, but the trend toward a card free wallet has already begun in the mainstream. For example, Michael’s Craft store and Cineplex Scene cards have both created apps which are downloadable versions of their  cards. Who needs plastic filling up their wallet when you can pull up a bar code on your phone?