The technology we have today is amazing.  Each day I grow older, I marvel at the new inventions, which someone perfected yesterday or this morning. All of their efforts go to making this evening more wonderful.

Often I tell my students I am too old, and I am too young.  I would have enjoyed being a part of The Greatest Generation; I think they had the most fun of all when it comes to flying, even though they got the shortest end of the stick possible with world situations in the 1940s.  I would also like to be young enough, or maybe sufficiently cognitive in my old age to see the wonderful new technologies of the future 50 or so years from now.  I always felt I was born too late, or too early.  That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

In both my fields, writing and flying, the technological advancements over the last 40 years has been absolutely amazing.  In 1975, yes, 1975, one of the professors at the School of Journalism at the University of Florida, stood before us and said, “Newspapers are dead.”  Not the thing to say to a bunch of aspiring news reporters.

He went on to say the news of the future was going to come into every household through a device.  “Not quite a television set, but something similar,” he said.  Those of us in the classroom did not have kind things to say about this professor; many of us thought he was an idiot and wondered where he could have ever garnered such information.  There was no way the newspapers of America could possibly die – they were the backbone of our journalistic system.  Everyone knew television reporting only gave the audience the slightest details of an event and if one wanted to get to the heart of an incident, only a newspaper delivered the necessary information.

In aviation, when I started training for my instrument rating, I flew airplanes woefully inadequate for instrument flight by today’s standards.  And I did this “in the soup,” in bad weather.  In the clouds!  Where I could not see where I was going more than half the time I was flying.

In those early days, our primary means of navigation included the VHF omnidirectional system, or VOR.  Most airplanes used in training at the time only had one VOR receiver.  This meant navigating along your course, momentarily switching frequency to another station, identifying that station, and then determining the radial you were crossing.  Then you would go back to the original frequency and continue along your way.

By the 1980s, many airplanes were equipped with high quality,  redundant radios.  And then we began to see other systems coming on line.  Area navigation (RNAV) was brilliant!  Distance measuring equipment (DME) was wonderful.  Radios became more reliable and pilots did not have to rely on that 7700 for one minute, 7600 for the next 14, and fly the last of the “assigned, expected, or filed.”

Now we have GPS – and almost every little kid and his or her grandmother knows it is Global Positioning System, or “GSP” as my mother-in-law refers to it.  Not only is this technology amazing in the airplane, I can’t believe I can take a portable unit to my car and ask it where the nearest gas station might be, or the nearest movie theater – and it knows!  For every location in the United States!

How is this possible?  And how did we ever live without it before?

Thank goodness for the space program.


© 2010 J. Clark

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