9-11, financial crisis, recession? Top story is communications

By John Toth

II don’t have a Top 10 list for the decade. It’s too hard to keep track of everything. So, I’ll go from memory, and if I leave something out that you think was a big event that should have been included, just drop me a line.

That is, drop me an e-mail. Not much gets done anymore through the regular wired phone or mail. E-mail is a lot faster and costs less. Send it to bulletin94@yahoo.com.

The biggest story is 9-11, of course. That goes without saying. It shaped this decade, and touched everything we have done and still do. My son, Bobby, is in Afghanistan, scheduled to leave from there on Jan. 4. I hope he never sees that hellhole country again, and that we’re done with our family’s involvement in the war.

Bobby is a medical technician and is based at Bagram AF Base, about 50 miles from Kabul. It’s safer than a lot of other places he could be assigned to over there, but he’ll be even more safe when he leaves Afghan airspace.

Aside from Iraq and Afghanistan, I think one of the biggest stories of the decade has to be the way we now communicate. I know that we had the recession story, the price of gas shot up to $4-plus in 2008, and we elected the first black president, but those are indivudual events, as important as they may be. What transcends the entire decade, though, is how we now communicate.

At the start of the decade we were mostly calling, mailing and faxing. By the end, if we did call, it was probably with a cell phone, faxing is now so last year, and mailing is … well, we do it if we have to, but try not to.

We started the decade with bulky, expensive desktop computers, and are ending it with sleek laptops. If we stayed with a desktop, we are getting a lot of speed and power for the buck. I prefer a laptop all the time. I am just about glued to one all day. That’s how I make my living.

I don’t watch much TV, but I did order from Hong Kong a USB digital TV receiver to attach to my laptop. I ordered this gadget so I can watch and record TV programs while I’m on my laptop. The order was placed from my laptop.

When I do watch regular TV, it’s on my digital receiver in my office that brings me programs in beautiful HD. In 2001, we were watching those clumsy, heavy TVs with the color dots all across the screen.

The problem is that now when I watch Houston news in HD, I am shocked at how old those anchors are. They looked younger on the TV with the color dots.

In 2001, we rented movies on VHS tapes; Now we’re getting it streamed or on DVD. Blockbuster is getting pushed out by Red Box and NetFlix.

In 2001 we took our pictures with a camera and had the film developed. Now most of the photos are taken with digital cameras.

In 2001 we used mostly landlines. Now we have smart phones. They are called that for a reason. By the time you figure out all the things a smart phone does, you have received the equivalent of a college education.

How did we ever exist without cell phones? I cannot imagine going anywhere without one today. I can’t even get lost anymore. I just turn on the GPS in my Android phone, and a nice voice tells me where to go.

Before I got this phone, when I made some wrong turns, I also was told where I could go.
I was able to use my smart phone and my laptop to keep track of developments in Brazoria County while we evacuated from Hurricane Rita and Ike in 2005 and 2008. Those two hurricanes have to be two of the biggest events of the decade in this county.

The bad news is that the hurricanes cost me a lot of money in lost income. The good news is that we evacuated to Bandera both times and had a great week off work. The bad news is that I was worried about the house a lot, and once we came back in 2008, there was no electricity for a couple of days. The good news is that Ike did enough damage to my roof to have it replaced. The bad news is that I used all of the insurance money to do it. The good news is that the roof needed replacing, anyway.

So, it turned out pretty well after all.

Closer to home and business, in 2001 I was looking at digitizing the paper’s layout and started shopping around for programs. Soon we replaced that bulky layout paste-up table with one computer, and stepped into the digital world of publishing.

By 2010 we stopped accepting paper photos and announcements. It all comes through the Internet now, and it goes out on the Internet. Unfortunately, we still have to pick up the papers from the printer and distribute them manually. There is no digital replacement for that.

And that’s the way I like it. I like a paper newspaper that I can touch and recycle when I am done. A computer when it gets old and outdated, is thrown out, perhaps parts of it recycled. When you finish reading a newspaper, all of it can be recycled.

That phone you are holding is made largely from petroleum-based non-renewable resources. A newspaper is made from a tree. It is completely renewable as long as there is sunshine.

So, dear readers, you have your list, I have mine, sort of. Send me yours if you want, or just keep reading these columns weekly while you’re sipping on that cup of coffee or having lunch somewhere. We plan to stay with you in paper newspaper form each week.