The internet is loaded with lists. Lists are recommended for writing/blogging because we read them. My wife likes to read lists to me. Neither of us have any idea why. This is my personal short list with explanations for why the item is here. In a way, it’s a gratitude list, but that’s not exactly what this is about. It’s about me, not the list. Please comment with your top five. I’d like to know if you share my opinions.
I call this the top five inventions now affecting my life. Back in history, each of these might have been considered magic. In a way, I consider them the magic of science. Many discoveries, inventions, and innovations were necessary predecessors to make these possible, and for those I am also grateful (things like electricity, fire, internet [actually came later], printing press, writing, etc.) Some are closer to my heart than others. Bill’s top five inventions are (random order):
The computer. The PC, laptop, and gadget after gadget (smart phone) using the science and technology to make my life better. I sat in front of one of these things for years at work and then spent more time on-line at home. Now in retirement, I use my laptop, smartphone, or iPad more than 8 hours a day. I type/keyboard with all ten fingers, like to write, and can make a mess with a typewriter. (electronic digital computer, 1939, Atanasoff and Berry)
Global Positioning System (GPS). I was a Master Navigator in the United States Air Force. Navigating was my profession. I was also a bombardier faced with the challenges of dropping things on targets (to put it nicely). 35 years ago, I was delighted to have technology that would tell me how fast I was going and in which direction. I used the sun and stars to determine where on earth we were, errors of miles were not unusual. I actually had mechanical/analog computers, which were also often wrong.
What I would have given for a GPS! Sometimes, we dropped hundreds of bombs hoping one might find the target. Today they use a (as in one) GPS-guided ‘smart bomb’ that can hit someone’s dinner plate. They need only one bomb per target.
Driving home, I can see a map of the roads all around me, traffic conditions, my position, and my arrival time. In 1978, the first satellite was launched and it was Y2K before GPS devices became available for personal use (instead of military only).
The Spell Checker. I often joke that the only thing worse than my handwriting is my spelling. Actually, I have no idea which is worse. Together, they conspire to make anything I handwrite virtually useless. Even I can’t read it. Professional, highly trained code breakers would never figure it out. It’s like a disability. Fellow writers often proclaim the great value of writing by hand. One page and my hand hurts. My head hurts from trying to make it legible. And my brain is pissed from focusing on scripting and spelling and not on content.
My poor penmanship has been replaced by computer writing software. Part of that software has been written to show me wrongly spelled words, and sometimes it even fixes some of them. Look – I fully understand all the pitfalls and problems of spell checkers. I’ve read the cute little poem (joke) about this. If your handwriting and spelling are adequate, good for you. Mine aren’t. This software has saved my ass from the constant embarrassment of ugly hand writing and atrocious spelling.
Stents. I am a medical science advocate. I may not agree with every practitioner, but I agree with mine. I inherited several things from my father: fondness for beer, a temper, and a circulatory system that likes to clog-up. It eventually killed him as it probably will do for me one day. But not today.
Several years ago my leg went numb while walking. A doctor said, “I think I know what’s wrong and what we can do about it.” He put three stents into my iliac arteries. They worked. Years later, I was told that coronary bypass surgery was too risky for me due to my calcified aortic arch. A Cath Lab team lead by my doctor inserted four stents to open my clogged/blocked coronary arteries. Six months later, I had two more inserted. Not heart attack required. Stents work immediately and the recovery time is measured in hours. I have a total of nine. Dad had none.
Airplanes. I like to fly. Much of my first career was spent flying or teaching others how. My second career was still associated with teaching others to fly. I like aviation museums. I also like books and movies about flying.
When I moved, I left Florida in the morning and was at my new home in the Pacific Northwest by dinner time. A forty-hour drive flown in seven. Until teleporters are perfected, we can travel to any place on earth during the same day, provided we do it in an airplane.
I could add things like the internet, automobiles, digital music, and sliced bread. But five’s enough. Right?