Friday, February 1, 2013

Computers ... friend and foe

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

Computers! Can’t live with them. Can’t live without them, especially in this 21st century.

I arrived at work earlier this week to find a new computer sitting on my desk. I'm not sure if it's a guy thing or a gadget-geek thing but I was like a little kid on Christmas morning as I unpacked Macintosh iMac and began the task of setting it up.

This is the first column written on this new system so, if there are any misspelled words or grammar faux pas, I get to blame the computer, this week only.

I frequently think about computers and how they affect our lives.

Many of us marvel at how quickly the world of aviation developed and grew. From Wilber and Orville Wright's first flight in December of 1903 to Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon in July of 1969, very little of that was accomplished with the power of a computer.

The Wright brothers, through the use of science and math, not to mention a lot of trial and error, became the first men to accomplish heavier-than-air sustained powered flight.

Computers were in use during World War II. These were analog computers that I won't say more about, lest you discover that I really have no idea how they worked.

I do know that a battleship's ability to train its guns and hit a moving target some 20 miles distant or a bombardier's use of a then-top secret Norden bombsight to put bombs "right in the pickle barrel" from his B-17  Flying Fortress was due to analog computers in which the information was cranked in and the machine calculated a solution.

Computers did play a large part in the history of NASA. The point has been made though that the total computing power aboard an Apollo spaceship was about that of some of today's hand-held calculators.

I remember very well the first home computer that my family purchased. After much research, we purchased a Magnavox PC. It had an amazing 64mb hard drive. The operating system was "GeoWorks." I also recall the relaxing naps that I was able to take as I waited — and waited — for the dial-up modem to stop making noise so that I could "surf the net."

That was well before the first digital cameras hit the market. As a side note, I was working at BK Photo & Gallery in Troy at that time. When we were introduced to digital cameras, the first one I saw, manufactured by Olympus, had a whopping resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. I can recall standing at the counter at BK Photo and telling a customer, "It will be cold day in h#!! before I ever use a digital camera. Yes, I have eaten those words for breakfast, lunch and dinner — several times.

The computer sitting in front of me, rather than a 64mb hard drive, has a one terabyte hard drive, nearly one million, million times larger than my first computer, and eight gigabytes of random access memory (RAM.)

What does all of this mean and where will it go from here? I have no idea. I grew up in a world of slide rules and having to calculate and reason problems. My success at that could be part of the reason why I am a photographer and not a rocket scientist.

All I can say is, first of all, thank you to our bosses here at the Piqua Daily Call/Civitas Media, for the computer upgrade. It is much appreciated, and I can't wait to see where the computing world leads us from here.

I only hope that our future generations don't forget how to use their brain. A mind really is a terrible thing to waste.

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