I find it hard to believe that it has been 13 years already since the internet became mainstream. However, in those thirteen years I have only come across a few applications that I have found extremely useful. First a brief history.
I first started using a computer around age 13 on an Apple 2C to catalog my movie and CD collection in a simple database. I also kept a journal in the word processor which makes for some very interesting reading now.
In my first years of college, the internet was not mainstream and surfing mediocre. We had a computer in our dorm room but I used it mostly for video games and to write papers. I did create a simple website using Microsoft word and figured out the code by trial and error. However, nobody really used the internet and the page had nothing but a few pictures on it. The only fun application was AOL and venturing into the chat rooms and “chatting” with random people.
Towards my senior year I learned how to use Dreamweaver to create better pages with “frames” yet the only use seemed to be to feel special. I felt like I was part of a select group of people “computer nerds” that could do this sort of thing.
Only recently however have I discovered applications that really change everything.
1. Google – Google is like having all the knowledge of mankind at your fingertips. I remember having a video game called “Phantasy Star” in which there was a futuristic life and everyone depended on “Mother Brain.” Google seems like that mother brain now in that we can access almost all knowledge at our fingertips. I find this completely fascinating.
2. Wikipedia – Another manifestation of having knowledge at your fingertips. There was discussion about it not “being accurate” which over time has faded away. With everyone being able to edit it I feel we can obtain a more complete view of any subject in that the knowledge comes from different viewpoints. One can experience the same event/thing but perceive it in different ways. I feel I’m getting a more accurate viewpoint when everyone contributes. However, it is mostly in English and that creates challenges too as language begets mentality. This is a difficult hurdle to overcome and I don’t believe it will be resolved anytime soon as there are simply too many languages to learn and thus we view events/things from a limited point of view.
3. PDA phones – The internet is now mobile and I can access mankind’s knowledge from anywhere. I was astounded when asked a question I can now simply press a few buttons and have the answer. Amazing
4. Netflix – Entertainment,,, I can now press a button and watch a movie by having my computer connected to my T.V. Netflix has just started offering “streaming movies.” Now, no more trips to the video store and I am no longer captive to what is showing on T.V.
5. Facebook – I have made so many friends in so many countries and would have lost touch if it wasn’t for Facebook. Before this application those friends would have faded from memory but now I feel so connected to the rest of the world simply by being able to keep in touch.
6. WebMD – If I feel like something is wrong with my body I can usually find the answer/cure on the internet. I did this to check out my physical results then went to the doctor. I found that the doctor didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know!!!!! The difference was that the doctor charged me $150 for information that I had received for free.
The only downside is now I have so much information to process in my brain on a daily basis I find that I can no longer clear my mind easily. If I try to think of nothing a thought will pop into my head and I have to shake it away only for another thought to appear.
Now for applications that are being developed but not yet mainstream.
1. Online courses to learn how to do anything – I recently learned of the Khan Academy which is one genius who created YouTube videos on everything from Caculus to the current credit crisis and explains them in a very simple way. It almost seems like something out of the Matrix when Neo sits in his chair and “downloads” martial arts and then can kick somebody’s butt. It will be neat when one day I can watch a short video and then have the revelation “Whoaa,,, I know Physics!!” LOL
2. Language – I found a website where you can write in another language and native speakers correct it for free. The trade off is they can post as well and have a native correct their language practice. A true exchange where a third party (Money) is not involved. Fantastic!!!
Unfortunately, the internet has mostly been used for the buying and selling of goods, but there are so many other areas that need to be developed.
Now, if I could only stop playing video games…. It’s hard to give up being a level 80 “Night Elf Rogue” with excellent gear though. If that sounds silly, it really isn’t. Life is starting to resemble a video game if you know that Predator drones are controlled from a military base in the United States. The main difference is that those guys are killing people in real life without the psychological impact of actually seeing it happen in real life. It is just like a video game to them. Scary..