Keeping up with technology

My highly "connected" kids could not fathom that when I was their age, television programmes did not start until 3pm and ended at midnight. Growing up with access to 24-hour satellite TV and high-speed broadband, their idea of entertainment and communication is fast-paced and interactive, and involves electronics gadgets.

Imagine their surprise when I told them about black-and-white TV! Once, when we couldn't locate our remote control, my son was shocked to discover that he could change the channel and volume by pressing some buttons on the TV and decoder. "Just like old times!" I told him.

Every time my kids and I talk about technology and its development, they never fail to make me feel ancient. I was born the year Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. My kids today see the moon in 3D on Google Earth! Who would have guessed!

Technology has changed so much from the time I knew how to take advantage of its many benefits. What I used to see in sci-fi movies as a little girl, has now become reality. The way people do things has changed and some, in ways I never imagined.

Take the way people communicate, for example. When I was in primary school in the late 1970s, I had a German pen pal. We only heard from each other once a month at most. It took weeks for a letter to be delivered across the continents, via snail mail. Calling each other on the phone was unheard of as it would have cost an arm and a leg.

On the contrary, today my daughter and nieces chat with their friends from other parts of the world in real time. They get on Skype, social networks or use mobile devices and apps like Whatsapp to stay connected. They even have their own instant messaging conversations like LOL and TTYL.

Telecommunication devices are getting sleeker and multi-functional, too. I remember my first handphone, a bulky Motorola. It was an analogue phone and a gift from my dad back in 1996. I sometimes felt embarrassed about using my handphone in public as it attracted unnecessary attention.

At that time, all I could do with the handphone was make calls, with limited coverage, of course. Many times, I had to walk about to find the right spot to get mobile reception.

Today, a mobile phone is a necessity and functions as a camera, video recorder, music player, clock and even an accessory which comes with all kinds of accessories.

One technology which has impacted my life greatly is the computer.

A PC was a luxury in the mid-1980s. When I completed my SPM in 1986, I signed up for a word-processing course. My mom thought I should get acquainted with computer as we didn't have one at home. The class was all about typing out words and remembering commands and key functions.

When I went to university, the computer wasn't widely used. In fact, I depended on my dad's old typewriter to do my assignments. For term papers and thesis, however, I had to go to the campus computer lab. I had not heard of laptops then.

The worst part about using the computer then, was it kept crashing. I still recall crying in the computer lab, one cold, rainy night because I lost more than 20 pages of assignments and had to redo everything.

Doing research then was so tedious and frustrating. I had to go to the library and read many books and journals to get the information I needed. Now, with search engines like Google and Bing, compiling information is just a click away.

The Internet is to me is one of the greatest gifts to mankind. It has changed the way people live their lives. Learning and working, for example, no longer has to be confined to a certain place or period.

I have benefited a lot from this technology, which has allowed me to work from home for the last four years.

Travelling has also been made easy because of Internet. When I took my kids to Siem Reap in Cambodia recently, I was able to book everything online, from flight tickets and accommodation to Phare the Cambodian Circus tickets.

I also used various apps to locate places of interest and to make sure I was taken to the right place by the designated drivers.

Today, some technology is changing at breakneck speed while several like the cassette player have become obsolete. Throughout the years. I've found myself adjusting to new technologies, from the keypad to touchscreens and from laptops to tablets.

Sometimes, my kids make fun of my inability to adjust quickly as they do to something new. Maybe one day when my kids have their own children, their offspring will look at the iPad the way my kids view black-and-white TV - old and dated.

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