Saturday, July 13, 2013

Small changes in technology can have big effects

Writing with the left hand can be quite different from using the right.  Cooking with gas can be different from using wood or using electricity.  Printing from a tray of wooden or metal blocks to create a sign or an article more or less changed the world.  At one time, the ball point pen was a big novelty since writing done with it was not damp and as likely to be smeared and a very large supply of ink was handy.

I am surprised at the difference between sending a text message and sending an email.  The message could be the same but the cost of creating and sending it could be quite different.  More interesting to me is the difference in response.  Quite a few of my friends have never used texting but a smaller number actually prefer it to email.  I can send them an email and get no response, ever.  The same message sent as text gets an immediate response nearly 100% of the time.  How come?

Since text messaging is related to cellphone calls, receiving a text usually involves an alerting sound.  Emails can arrive more quietly and often do.  Text messages are often limited in number of characters and are usually quite informal.  I can send the message "Lunch at Mickey's?" instead of a longer and wordier invitation.  When I do, I get the response "K" for OK, which is a single letter acceptance.  I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere somebody has texted (a relatively new verb) and received "K" as a response.

I have heard that some teens can send comprehensible text messages using their phone while keeping the phone out of sight in their pocket.  The keyboard on an iPad can be "pulled apart" into two pieces to make a pair of thumb-able keyboards for those used to using their thumbs to do all of the typing.  That change and other small ones can have big and surprising effects, all at once or cumulative.

If you are interested, you can text free using Google Voice.

I try to convince my friends to try alternative technologies whether for exercise, cooking, communications or computing.  Sometimes, a small change can have a big effect.

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