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Technology, Toto, technology

I think that weather-wise we had a pretty nice non-event Saturday in our corner of Marion County. I hope that wherever they may be, all the friends and extended family members of my regular readers are safe and sound as well.

I was a bit surprised to awake on Sunday morning to so many inquiries about our safety. While not as much a slave to technology as some, I am very comfortable communicating with people all over the country at the drop of a hat. Still, I was taken aback by the e-mail and Facebook messages on my computer after the sun came up. Most were from high school and college friends checking in to see if we were alright. Some were from Kansas friends reporting on their own status.

While watching the weather coverage late into the night, I marveled at the advances in technology that probably saved dozens of lives. The ability of the weather teams to spot areas of rotation, hail, wind velocity, debris, and pinpoint the time of the storm’s arrival in a given community was impressive. Of course a good deal of their ability to spread the word depended on staying connected to their viewers. But still, there was plenty of advance tracking and information, often for long periods of time before the power went out.

I am someone who does not have a smart phone and does not think our society is better off because of text messaging. I am often surprised to find myself on Facebook looking at baby pictures of children whose grandparents I remember from high school. I am comfortable with a good number of computer programs both at home and at work, but I don’t remember getting that way. I am not good at understanding or appreciating technological advances.

However, the computers and touch screens that traced the storms minute-by-minute in multiple parts of the state Saturday night were something for which we all should be grateful.

I remember, as a grade school student, seeing news of the tornado in Udall. We lived in northern Illinois then and my only knowledge of the event came with a copy of one of the weekly picture magazines of those days, “Look” or “Life.” On a May night in 1955, more than 80 people died, almost 300 were injured, and the small Kansas town was nearly wiped from the map. The black and white photos accompanying the magazine story were bleak and frightening … the stuff of nightmares.

Decades later I find I’ve spent most of my adult life in Kansas and although people still refer to this as Tornado Alley, those devastating storms can appear anywhere. Although I have never seen a tornado, I still remember the magazine photographs and the stories of death and destruction that went with them.

I know technology has made a huge difference in many facets of our lives. I think I just forget from time to time. Sometimes it is just easier to play the curmudgeon and fuss and moan about how much better things used to be.

And so, the next time you hear me utter a phrase about my computer that you think would make my mother spin in her grave, remind me. The next time I snarl about everyone sitting at a table in a restaurant looking at incoming texts on their phones instead of talking to one another, remind me. The next time I complain about trying to deal with a computer-generated voice on the telephone instead of a real customer service representative, remind me.

We are lucky, indeed, to be living with technology.

— Susan Marshall

Last modified April 18, 2012

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