Life and its changes

By Patrick Fisher

Over the last few weeks, I've been reminded that life is full of changes.

Earlier in November, a friend and I were talking about how computer technology has changed. The two of us are both of an age where we were around for the first personal home computers and video games. But our conversation went back even further than that. We discussed how the first computers were these huge machines, about the size of vending machines, and the whole system would probably fill my entire apartment if not another one besides. We also recalled how the early computers used punch cards and had one primary task - to calculate mathematical formulas.

We estimated those computers were the types that were used in the late 1940s, more than 60 years ago. While historically that's a relatively short period of time, those computers are ancient in terms of today's technology.

To show how computers have changed, my friend pulled out his cell phone, although it's much more than that. It also has a calculator, Internet access, can take photos, works as a video camera and a few other tasks too. We speculated that if the scientists who used the first computers saw his cell phone, they would probably go into shock over the advances in computer technology.

In another arena? Video games have changed drastically. My family owned an Atari system where the games were tennis, hockey, soccer and pong. The games were all pretty much the same, a rectangle for a paddle and a type of ball you hit back and forth until someone missed or scored. Now the game systems have characters who look like they stepped out of an animated film, almost life-like. Games also range from competing in a simple event, such as racing a car to telling a story where a person has to complete a chapter to advance to the next level in the game.

Personal computers have also undergone major changes. The ones used in schools and at homes were a bit bulkier than the ones used today. The way they communicate with each other has also evolved. Dial-up in the first type of personal computers required putting the phone receiver in a type of cradle, and the transfer of data was extremely slow. Today a phone line can be plugged right into the computer. While a dial-up system is still considered the slowest form of communicating, compared to cable and satellite, it's faster than what it used to be.

Even the Internet has changed. It first offered limited information; today there are games, movies and TV shows on it. Also, nearly every business, branch of government and organization has something on the World Wide Web.

For me, this point was made clear when I was visiting my family in Thief River Falls for Thanksgiving. I found out that the ordination of the new bishop of the Diocese of Crookston will be shown live on the web this week.

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