The use of technology during the COVID-19 crisis has moved forward in ways I had not expected when all this began.
Yes, I have become accustomed to certain technological advances, just as most people have. But my iPad is several years old, and my iPhone is just as old, yet that hasn’t seemed to slow me down. However, the ways I use those things have changed somewhat.
I must say it sometimes takes me aback when I consider how far we’ve come and now how far we still can go.
When my parents were alive, I’d look at my dad and think about what he’d seen change in his lifetime. He was born to farming parents in Eastern North Carolina to a household with five older siblings, no indoor plumbing and, I think, no electricity – at least at first. In his lifetime he went from that life to the addition of electricity, to every household having a radio around which the family gathered in the evenings, from a mule as the major mode of transportation to everyone owning a car. Following World War II he moved into an area where everyone had indoor plumbing. By the time I was three, we had a TV (with one then two channels). And by the end of my parents’ lives, they had watched a man walk on the moon. They had a flat-screened TV. They had watched entertainment, for them at least, move from a victrola to a record player, 8-track tapes, cassettes and CDs. Even though they were aware of such things, they never gave in to an MP3 or a cellphone, however.
I, of course, experienced such things as well. When I started with my first job as a reporter, my boss made me use an old Royal upright manual typewriter – she insisted the office had so many power outages that I couldn’t depend on an electric typewriter. (I think she really thought it wasn’t “real” news if it weren’t typed on an iconic newsroom typewriter – despite the fact that I had never typed on a manual typewriter. I had learned on an electric typewriter.)
Then, when I started at The Star, I purchased a fine, new Commodore 64 computer. As an aside, at that time The Star did not have a computer. Sam and Mim typed copy on an IBM Selectric typewriter, and a typist retyped that copy into a word processor and an old Headliner – a device that printed out (on a dot matrix printer) strips of copy ready to cut-and-paste onto large, newspaper-sized sheets to be photographed and turned into press plates for ultimate printing.
During many of those early years, I also taught computer classes at Mead Hall. There we progressed from Macintosh SE-2s to early iMacs, iBooks, etc., and from keyboard-driven computers to mouses (sorry, my word for more than one mouse) to touchpads. A friend at SRS once observed that when the Site went from Mac SEs to SE-2s, he asked, “When are we ever going to need 2 MB of ram?”
Look at us now!
Today it takes 7 or 8 MB just to turn the computer on or to do basic word processing.
Our schools have had to adjust to guiding study online. I have four grandchildren who are studying totally through virtual means this semester. They have virtual teachers, classroom teachers (though they aren’t in the classroom) and a new dependence on their internet connection to make that happen. I have one grandchild doing the hybrid program, so she’s in a very different classroom two days a week and working on a computer the other three. And I have one grandchild in kindergarten every day where she’s also in daycare. (My seventh grandchild is 3, so her mom has devised a plan, but not through a formal school.)
Although my church returned to worship in the church building in July, you’ll still find me in my sunroom on Sunday mornings, participating in worship through online streaming. And I’m not sure when that will change.
But perhaps the biggest challenge – and maybe the longest lasting change – has come in the workplace. Many folks have found they can get as much done at home as they were doing in the office. I heard an attorney recently talking about the office building his firm had just completed and moved into as the pandemic hit. Now he’s asking, “Why do we need it?” In my own family, daughter Liz works for Clemson, and as students prepare to return to campus, her department discussed their timetable. Liz’s boss has said work has gone so well through Zoom that she saw no reason to return to the “norm” until September 2021.
Zoom! Who had ever heard of Zoom or Microsoft Teams before the pandemic? Now, I’m questioning when I will feel compelled to attend certain meetings in person ever again. The North Augusta Forward board has been meeting in person and through Zoom, so I can “attend” that way. I’m also on the SRS Citizens Advisory Council. We will continue to meet via Zoom until sometime in 2021. I’m attending classes at USCA’s Academy of Lifelong Learning, and this year we can either attend through MSN Teams or in person (with proper social distancing, of course). This means I can attend even when I’m out of town or even if I were to move far away.
It’s a brave new world yet again where technology is concerned. And, as a former managing editor at the Aiken Standard liked to say, “The world is changing, and if you’re not changing, you’re dead.” I’m not ready for that yet, so I’m embracing the change.