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Tech Savvy for May 28, 2009

by Dan Harper

    The computer, the overachieving offspring of a calculator and typewriter, has become much more than a tool.  Our use of it has affected what it has become, and today′s use shapes tomorrow′s version.

    Word processing no longer resembles typing on a typewriter.  It has become a moveable-type publisher with built-in proofreader to check spelling, punctuation, and grammar, and even provide helpful hints.              Spreadsheets have come a long way too, and can now be used to perform repetitive calculations without having to type all the numbers. 

    Databases have evolved  to meet the demands of industry.  A database is simply an impossibly large electronic file cabinet with a hyperkinetic secretary.  Records may be added or removed, stored or retrieved, sorted and compared.  This is what a computer was born to do. Not only can it store and regurgitate its own information, it can connect to other machines and display their information.  That′s what the internet is all about.

    Be it for entertainment or scholarly pursuits, the computer is our own personal research librarian.  Google has become the standard search engine, but have a look at Wolfram Alpha (www.wolframalpha.com).  Not only will it bring up a wealth of relevant data, it will also compute at an extremely complex level.

    Computers have taken graphics to a whole new level, in some cases literally.  What was once done with design, photography, layout, and models may now be done within the computer.  Artists are now having to add imperfections to their images to give them the feel of reality.  Sometimes a coffee stain or lens flare lends credibility to their creativity.

    Perhaps the most common use of today′s computer is communication. Email, blogging, chat, and other social networking has connected people in amazing ways.  Something old that is coming into its own is teleconferencing and videoconferencing.  The next logical step is the integration of voice and data within our own machines, and this has happened with Voice over IP, or VoIP.

    Between cartoons, video games, movies, music, and LOLcats, our computers have become one of our primary sources of entertainment.  Overuse of the computer has become a factor in some ailments including circulatory problems, obesity, and insomnia.  Our trusted friend has the cure for this too in the form of games to make you get up and move around like Wii  Fit.  Another solution is to put down the tool.  There′s a big beautiful world out there to enjoy!

    If you feel you aren’t using your computer to full capacity, there will be free classes this summer on specific computer programs.  Look for announcements.