Eons ago, I am sure that a man used a rock to pound on something. Maybe he was building an arrowhead or he might have been using it to build himself some kind of house. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Then, one day, someone came on the brilliant idea to affix a rock on some kind of handle. Hence, the hammer was invented. Over the years, the hammer has gone through countless improvements. Moreover, there are at least a dozen variations to the modern hammer.
As with most inventions, it can be used for good or it can be used for damage or harm. Indeed, some hammers were actually designed as weapons, though today, most of them are found in museums. Still, a little two-pound sledgehammer can be quite lethal, though it is not designed as one. Please stay with me as I spring forward to a more modern invention, the computer.
By itself, it is neither good or bad. However, it can be used for either one. Being as I was born well before the modern electronic digital computer, being as I have been around them most of my life in one way or the other, I have seen plenty of both. Ideally, when the computer first came onto the scene, their primary is to save time. They save time because they can perform repetitive tasks very fast.
They save time because they perform complex calculations in a timely manner. (for instance space travel) Now that financial institutions use them, errors are as rare as hen’s teeth, which saves time and frustration. Since they first arrived on the scene, they have one more real advantage. (that is, besides games) They provide enormous amounts of storage. In the time before computers, papers had to be saved for years, taking up rooms of storage.
Now, years of data can be stored on something not much larger than a stamp. It even makes Microfiche old-fashioned. Along the way, the computer has changed the worlds of photography, music, teaching and, of course, literature. My wife hardly goes anywhere without her Kindle. The books she has on the little electronic tablet would fill a couple of good sized chests. About all of us carry phones around, which are full of music and photos. I listen to mine wile walking.
One can hardly imagine such a wonder being used for bad, but it started almost from the start. The first place I noticed it was when they were used for tracking employees. Some employers used computers to track the number of keystrokes by the employee as well as how many errors they made. It is a way to keep an employee under thumb. I actually worked under those conditions for a while. Worse, if I did one thing, I was wrong. If I did the other, I got scolded. Instead of using the computer to streamline things, they used the computer to become Big Brother.
Speaking of Big Brother, the government is using computers to track our ways more and more and they are not the only ones. Though they do not yet use the info for such purposes regularly, they certainly can. It would not take much to make it happen. Indeed, it is quite possible that the foundations are in place.
One of the uses that management has found for computers is in fast food. Most of the major chains have computers tracking how long it takes to process an order. While I am not completely in agreement with the use, it does help to make sure the that the guests receive their order in a reasonable time. It does have a problem. Most frequently, the employees simply delay in taking the order. This allows the staff to apparently provide fast service, though the computer is collecting false data. Recently, McDonald’s has started using kiosks to take orders.
I have had the opportunity to use them a few times and I now have an opinion about them. On the positive side, the staff no longer is able to corrupt the data. The computer times the order from when the customer completes the order until it is completed. Also, the employee brings the order to the customer’s table. For me, that is not a big thing, but I do realize it is for some.
On the negative side, the kiosks are difficult. For me to say that it is something. I was a computer operator for about twenty-five years. It takes me twice as long to enter the order on the kiosk than to provide the order the old way. Moreover, I am not sure of what to do next after each step. The other day, the employee entered the order on the kiosk, and even she entered the order slowly.
I am afraid this was one step backward. The fault, as usual, is not the computer but rather those who programmed it. My personal opinion is that the project will likely go through a number of revisions in the next few years, that is, if they hope to have success with the kiosks. Otherwise, they will simply frustrate their customers. Those like me will simply go to the counter and order the good old fashioned way.
Then again, those like my wife will likely stay away altogether. She does not like computers at all and she lets me know it every chance she gets. To be sure, this is in spite of the fact that they helped me put food on the table through most of our marriage.