Computers are not exactly considered to be a modern invention. The earliest known computer was the abacus. This was invented by the Chinese in order to calculate answers. It was not until 1642 when Blaise Pascal invented the first calculator. By 1800s, Joseph Jacquard “developed a loom controlled by punched cards.” These cards were used to program instructions for the machine. This is the earliest ancestor of the IBM punched cards. However, it was not until 1812, when Charles Babbage invented the difference engine. This invention revolutionized computer technology. He invented an engine that “performs calculations with any human intervention.” He later improved his invention and designed the analytic engine. This time the machine can “perform any calculation” and store any data. These inventions are why Charles Babbage is considered to be the father of modern-day computers. It was only in 1911, when IBM was formed mainly because of the invention of Dr. Herman Hollerith: the Hollerith Code. This code enables the storing of census data and answered the needs of the US government.
However, the first-generation computers only came about during the 1950s. The first of these computers was invented by John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert. This was the UNIVAC I or the Universal Automatic Computer. It was used by the US Census Bureau for business data processing. These computers used vacuum tubes inside their electronic circuits and would heat very quickly. As such, these were very large machines. Despite its size, the storage capacity was very limited. When the 1960s came about, transistors replaced vacuum tubes. This means that computers were smaller and faster. Data storing also improved because of the use of magnetic tapes and disks for storage instead of punched cards. Programming languages also became more sophisticated that enabled programmers to include file processing, editing, and input and output capabilities.
The 1970s ushered in the third generation of computers. These computers used integrated circuits to replace the bulky transistors. “The circuits are etched and printed and hundreds of electronic components could be put on silicon circuit chips less than one-eighth of an inch square.” This was the start of being disk-oriented. The result was greater storage capabilities, better performance, and reliability, faster and smaller computers. Microcomputers were also being offered for the needs of small business owners. Several computers were also designed to perform several operations at the same time. Remote processing of data among different computers over a specific geographic location was slowly being developed for easier communication. Software programs were also being developed to lessen any human operations. The computer was used for a variety of businesses like airline reservations, market forecasting, credit card billings and inventory controls.
By the mid-1970s until the 1980s, a new generation of computers emerged. These used large-scale integrated circuits that increased storage capacity and processing time. These computers introduced microprocessors and microcomputers that offered a versatile of uses for the common individual. Unlike its predecessors, it can be used at home. These were the advent of personal computers.
By the 1990s, personal computers have processing speeds of 400 MHz with hard drives that can store up to 6.4 gigabytes (History, n.d.) Nowadays, computers are not limited to bulky units at home. There is an evolution for smaller and more mobile processing units. Thus, smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and laptops emerged. Each new item is smaller and faster than its predecessor. In Japan, Fujitsu showed a transparent dual-sided OLED touch screen smartphone. This phone enables the user to control the interface from the front or rear of the phone (MacManus, 2012).
Since then, it has become almost unimaginable how we can finish a day without using a computer. In this modern world, it seems like everything can be done with just a simple click of a mouse. Computers have become a household necessity in making our lives easier. The advent of computer technology and its continued advancement has brought about a new lifestyle. Undeniably, computer technology has enumerable benefits. But just like everything else, these benefits come with a number of disadvantages. Computers can make our lives difficult because of technology dependence. In the long run, the new lifestyle that has evolved may not be as healthy as many people would want it to be.
The advantages of computer technology
As each new generation of computer technology emerged, the goal of each device was to make people’s lives easier. However, data processing is not the only benefit that computer technology has brought. It has changed the lifestyle of society.
Computer technology also changed the manner of communication between individuals. With the advent of the Internet, everyone can be connected with anyone they want. Before, letters were used to communicate. Now, there is electronic mail or e-mail, where mail can be sent instantaneously to the recipient or multiple recipients. Plus, it’s free. People can also communicate by sending messages through instant message clients like AOL instant messenger and Yahoo! Messenger. Such clients also give the users options to use emoticons to convey their feelings. There is also sending text messages using mobile phones. Now, it is possible to inform anyone about our whereabouts and feelings. It is also possible to call and see anyone using the computer with Voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) and mobile phones anywhere in the world. In short, calling with the use of the computer is not limited to listening to the other person’s voice (De Leo, 2008).
Computers are also able to help people organize their lives by making their daily tasks easier. The personal computer has become the personal assistant of a person that is able to multitask. With its faster processors and bigger storage space, they can help with data processing with such programs as MS Word and Open Office. Even the entertainment system of a person is organized and properly stored by building a digital library in one’s personal computer. For example, a person can download and listen to his or her favorite songs with Apple iTunes. With the innovation of laptops and netbooks, these tasks are possible be done anytime, anywhere. This is why, according to ABI Research, they predict “that shipments of netbooks, as well as Mobile Internet Devices, are expected to exceed 200 million in 2013” (DeLeo, 2008).
Finally, computer technology also helped in the evolution of education. With the help of the Internet, research on any subject is easier. Research papers and other documents are available to anyone. Online discussions “also allow students to tap into expertise that otherwise would have been inaccessible. Instead of relying on a student in an adjacent seat for information, one command sends a plea for help to the entire class, usually resulting in at least a handful of responses within a few hours” (Hodorowicz, 2000).
The disadvantages of computer technology
Despite the intention of computer technology to make the lives of people easier, there are certain disadvantages that cannot be denied. In spite of revolutionizing the manner of communication, such technology also made people more impersonal. People are used to sending messages rather than having a personal talk with one another. There is a decreasing need for actual human interaction. As such, it is very easy to misconstrue what a person is saying (DeLeo, 2008). “Communicating with people on the Internet is not the same as face-to-face conversation or even similar to writing or reading an old-fashioned letter. The “virtual community” of the Internet is populated by people with false identities, people with inaccurate information, people who express themselves quickly and with little reflection or sense of accountability” (Hodorowicz, 2000).
Computer technology also creates a certain level of dependency on its functions. For example, in writing an essay, most people would use the spell check in order to be more literate. Another example is when people are addicted to their smartphones. There is that constant need to check their phone for messages, emails, or notifications on social network sites (DeLeo, 2008).
Computer Technology can also be a source of misinformation and rumors. Through the Internet, there has been an influx of information. Unfortunately, some of this information may not be reliable and its sources are unknown. Anyone who has the capacity to create a website is able to spread any information they want. “In the past, we have arranged an elaborate set of social conventions about authorship, official editions, authoritative versions, and so on in order to define which information is reliable. Until we have developed a new set of social norms for validating computer information, there will be some uneasiness about how much we can trust computer networks” (Computers and Social Change, n.d.)
Computer technology has also spawned a new set of problems for society. One of these problems is the increasing rate of cybercrimes. Cybercrimes are “hackers out to take our personal information and money, spies who want to steal our nation’s secrets, and terrorists who are looking for novel ways to attack our critical infrastructure” (Henry, 2011). One of the most common cybercrimes is identity theft. Even though identity theft is nothing new, the manner that it is done in this computer age is getting more serious. “With relatively little effort, an identity thief can use this information to take over existing credit accounts, create new accounts in the victim’s name or even evade law enforcement after the commission of a violent crime. Identity thieves also sell personal information online to the highest bidder, often resulting in the stolen information being used by a number of different perpetrators. Identity theft can be very difficult for consumers to deal with, as they often do not know they have been defrauded until they are denied credit or receive a call from a creditor seeking payment for a debt incurred in their name.” It was estimated by the Federal Trade Commission that 8.3 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2005. “The same FTC survey determined that victim consumers spent over 200 million hours in 2005 attempting to recover from identity theft” (Financial Crimes Report to the Public Fiscal Year 2006, 2006).
Another example of cybercrime is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying has been defined as “bullying that takes place using electronic technology. This includes mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles” (Cyberbullying, n.d.) The disturbing part of these cases is that a child or a teenager is not even safe at home. The bullying persists, as such abuse happens online. The abuse follows them everywhere.
Finally, computer technology also contributed to a number of health and psychological problems in society. One of the health hazards of computer technology is the increasing case of obesity in society. This is mainly due to the sedentary behaviors that developed with the increasing use of the computer. In a study conducted in Australia with 2,650 adults, it was discovered that “participants with low leisure-time Internet and computer use had the highest levels of educational attainment and employment, and engaged in less other sedentary behaviors when compared to participants with no or high Internet and computer use. Adults with high leisure-time Internet and computer use were more likely to be overweight or obese even if they were highly active in their leisure time as compared to participants who did not use the Internet or computer” (Vandelanotte, 2009). Another problem is the increasing cases of game addiction. This is commonly seen with the younger generations as they would rather spend more time playing video games rather than interacting with other people. “Symptoms of game addiction include falling behind in school and work and basically deferring everything else in your life so you can play. Compulsive playing tends to mask underlying problems such as depression, anger and low self-esteem” (Scheeres, 2001). Finally, there are cases of social phobia. Social phobia or social anxiety disorder is the most extreme form of social anxiety or shyness. “Generally, people with social anxiety disorder fear and avoid social situations that involve performing in front of others or being observed by other people and social interaction situations” (Ashbaugh, 2002). Since computer technology is able to make communication less personal, people with social phobia would rather spend their time with a computer rather than confront their fears.
Each generation of computers had one purpose; this was to make the lives of people easier. However, the disadvantages of the new lifestyle outweigh its advantages. As technology advances, new sets of problems arise. Even though communication became easier, it also became an avenue to commit crime and to lose actual human interaction. Computers help in finishing tasks faster and more efficiently. However, a person can become too dependent on it to the point of addiction that spawns health and psychological problems. It can be seen that the manner that society uses computers today is quite abusive of its functions. As such, computer technology is more disadvantageous rather than fulfilling its intended use.
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