I am not a hi-tech gadgets person by any stretch of anybody’s imagination. My laptop my baby is a doddering old man of 4 years. I have a cell phone that Cingular gave me free when I lost my phone last year, in spite of the fact that I was not eligible for an upgrade (and just in case you have not had experience dealing with Cingular this can only mean that they wanted to throw the phone away but gave it to me instead to save disposal costs). I just bought my first digital camera, the cheapest Nikon cool pix on the market, and that too largely because we had a gift card (from redeemed credit card points, not generous friends) that was about to expire and we just absolutely had to spend it. In spite of all of this, I had occasion recently to reflect on how my life has changed in the last 8 or 10 years when for the first time in a long time, I was at home but did not have internet access for a whole day. I felt like a hand and a leg had been cut off! So, I record here some tangential thoughts I had during my time of “extreme and unnatural duress”.
- Phone numbers : When I was in college I knew something like 25 phone numbers of the top of my head. Now, I hardly know my own, thanks to the fact that I have had a cell phone for a few years now and everyone I call is in my address book. My addiction to my address book and my speed dial has gotten to such an extent that I am consciously avoiding buying a Reliance phone card of my own and am using my brother’s so that at least I am guaranteed to remember his phone number! (if you did not know, the reliance phone card has the telephone number followed by a four digit pin as the access code. So every time I call my mother I necessarily dial my brother’s phone number. But fear not, the reliance access number is on speed dial and I sure as hell don’t know what that number is).
- Instant email replies : My laptop or my desk top is within sight from about 6 in the morning to about 8 at night and I check my email every hour or so when I take a break from whatever it is I am doing. At that time, all professional emails are replied to immediately, even if only as a placeholder to say a more detailed response follows in n hours or n days as the case may be. So on the rare occasion that I am actually too engrossed in reading something or in a calculation, to remember to check mail, people assume (depending on whether they like me or not, and I work with both categories of people) that I am either on the verge of death (giving rise to “Is everything ok?” emails) or that I am goofing off (leading to “Where the heck are you?” emails). When did it become that 24 hours as a turn around time for an email is considered as too much time?
- The Google addiction : This is the last but by no means the least on my list of technology induced changes in life. First, I stopped trying to remember or record in a bookmark web page URLs. You can always google them right? Then I stopped trying to use my library catalog to find papers or online resources, I always try google scholar first. Then I stopped going to online listings of restaurants or shops, Maps has it right? And the last straw in this sequence happened a few days ago. I wanted to know the definition of “nematic penetration depth”. So I asked google. And google books told me that it is on page 179 of a book that was sitting right there on my desk. Goes to show that if something happened to google I will have to spend a fair amount of time learning to live again!