Friday, October 19, 2007

Evolving online resources

Yesterday, I was thinking about the growing depth of online resources that were simply unavailable even just a few years ago, and how dependent upon them we've become.

Some of us are still just getting used to the computer age.

I was reminded, too, that I obtained my first computer back in about 1984. Though I already had one at work for about a year, my brother had connected to a guy who helped people assemble their own PCs at considerably less cost than purchasing retail. He guided us through this at a community college classroom one evening. It was easy and de-mystified the "guts" of the hardware.

Of course, software was a whole other matter in those days, and one actually had to learn at least a little DOS to make one's PC function. And, ah, those monochrome screens, weren't they delightful? (I opted for the "new" amber color over the hideous, ubitquitous green.)

OK, so that was over 20 years ago--eons in technological time. But how about the internet?

Most businesses posted sites beginning about 10 years ago, and they were often crudely built, with little interactivity. The fact that today we do everything from investing and banking online to networking with strangers is amazing.

Much of this is self-evident, of course--in other words, we now take it all for granted.

In preparing for my upcoming trip to Israel, though, there are definitely some tools on the internet that weren't around even a couple of years ago. Trip Advisor has become the site to visit for anyone preparing a trip anywhere--the Zagat's guide to travel, so to speak, driven by user reviews and forums. It even allows you to map the places you've visited and place that into your profile, which I have done. (Search for me as rictheater to find it there.)

That led me to a site I had visited about a year ago, but forgotten about: Google Earth. It's more sophisticated now, having added views of space (!), but its basic attraction is still there: the ability to zoom down from satellite views of any place on the planet to fairly detailed aerial views of most of them. They now have a wiki-community that posts photos and links identified by little dots on their relief maps. Some sites are quite detailed, like Washington, D.C., while the city my brother lives in, Winchester, Virginia, is a total blur. I can't imagine it will be for very long, as Google conquers the world (and it will).

I've begun mapping significant places in my life -- placing pushpin icons on them and saving them as My Places in Google Earth. Alison was teasing me about spending time doing this, but I told her I thought it was no different than doing crossword puzzles, which we both do, and she agreed.

So, for now, I'm crafting a map of my life. Mine has locations around the world, but even if someone has lived his entire life in one town, it's possible to pushpin every building one has entered on Google Map, and that says a lot (what it says is another matter, however.)

Until next time...


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