12 January 2011
By Elizabeth Dodson
In December, disaster struck, I switched my computer on only to be greeted with the blue screen of death. It made me realise how utterly reliant I am on my laptop and how much harder life is without the Internet.
This blog is just one example of how easy it is now to share information. Within minutes of having an idea I can publish it on the Internet for all to see and comment on. Granted this may not always be a good thing, but it is a luxury that I had come to take for granted. The Internet enables us to build communities and it is a strange experience to suddenly be isolated from that.
While on maternity leave, the Internet also provides the easiest way for me to stay in touch with colleagues and to keep in the general loop of activity so that my eventual return to work is not too much of a shock to the system. It has allowed me to continue to dip my toe into a little cooperative research activity and to continue to read journals without the need to drive to an academic library. I remember spending a large part of my degree pretty much living at the library - now I can read most of the journals I want online at the click of a button.
Whenever I have a question these days, Google is often my first port of call. Want to know more about some research reported on the news, someone's contact details, a missing instruction manual - Google will have the answer.
My laptop is where I keep my lists and my calendar - which are what keep me organised. It is also where I have all my passwords saved - making it not so easy to just pick up someone elses computer and use the Internet for the same activities. (Is it just me or is it virtually impossible to remember the number of passwords now required to get by on the Internet?)
Back in the 1940s, the president of IBM famously predicted, "A world market for maybe five computers". I'm no longer sure how I could do my job without one. Should this reliance worry me or is it just the way of the world?