3 technologies to be truly thankful for

GCN’s lab director offers his list – what’s on yours?

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful and uniquely American holiday. It gives us time to give thanks for whatever it is that makes our lives complete. And although we mostly concentrate on family and friends, I’m reminded that several really cool technologies make my life a better place.

So I’d like to ask all of you to let us know what gadget, gizmo or life-saving technological Holy Grail makes you happy. Here are some of mine:

Microwave ovens.

I have nothing against the many other uses of microwaves, but my favorite has got to be when we use them for cooking. Their use as a cooking tool was discovered in 1946 when Dr. Percy Spencer of the Raytheon Corp. was experimenting with radar and magnetrons and realized that the candy bar in his pocket had melted. Realizing that cooking food across a room probably wasn’t practical (or safe), work began on creating a device that would cook food inside of an oven, hopefully where chefs were not standing at the time. Popcorn was the first food cooked on purpose inside one, which is ironic because it’s also one of the most popular foods still nuked today, though my choice has got to be microwaveable burritos, which I’m convinced is what separates us from the animals.

Scalable, fault-tolerant distributed server architecture.

That’s a mouthful, but for me it boils down to one thing – massively multiplayer online games. Yes, we could probably use this technology to determine if life on other planets exists or cure the common cold. But it’s a lot more fun to dress up in silly costumes and hang out with your friends in a medieval world, slaying dragons, orcs and the occasional goblin. Once a week I even get to play a hobbit from Tolkien lore, and I’ve climbed the ranks all the way up to a level 64 Guardian in Lord of The Rings Online. When I hit 65, I’m putting that accomplishment on my resume. If you happen to be on the Meneldor server over the holidays, say hello to Circee, and I’ll be sure to wave back, unless you’re playing an orc or a goblin, of course. Then I’ll have to kill you.

Geostationary and elliptical orbiting satellites.

I put two kinds of satellite orbiting patterns into this one because both work together to enable a technology that I’ve become addicted to of late: satellite radio. Faced with a long commute, I was highly discouraged by the idiocy of morning DJs or the endless commercials I had to sit through to hear even a single bar of a song that, more often than not, I didn’t really like. I would have paid almost anything to spice up my drive. Then I was introduced to the world of Sirius and XM radio (they are together now). Suddenly I had an entire commercial-free station devoted to the greatest musical decade ever created: the 1980s! But there are also hundreds of other channels when A Flock Of Seagulls and Duran Duran get to be a bit much. Everything from show tunes to uncensored hardcore rap is at my fingertips, and stand-up comedy for when music doesn't soothe the savage commuter. Oh yeah, there is also news and junk like that. I’ll never go back to terrestrial radio (yes I’ve also become a radio snob). Satellite radio is a technology that makes me thankful for traffic jams, or at least more tolerant of them, something that, around D.C., is quite helpful.

So there is my short list of things I’m thankful for. What's yours? Mass production of beer? Search engines that make porn easily accessible (and then browser-plug-ins to cover your tracks?) Or more mundane things like lifesaving defibrillators, flashlights and that amazing Goober Grape that somehow combines the jelly and peanut butter in the same jar?

So, my fellow technocrats, let’s show the world what we’re made of, and what we’re truly thankful for this year.


About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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