The IT Guy: World of tech full of surprises since Sept. 11

When my editor informed me that my next column would be scheduled for Sept. 11, my first thought was probably like many people's when they think about that day -- where we were when we first heard.

For me, that would be in Boise, Idaho. I was working at the Idaho Statesman (a sister paper of the Packet and Gazette) as a graphic designer. Being two hours behind in the Mountain time zone, as well as working nights, meant that I woke up after the attacks had begun. I began my morning routine, which meant visiting the Statesman's website first thing. I'll never forget the front-page headline: "FAA Shuts Down All Commercial Traffic." I thought to myself, "What in the world could cause that?" and turned on the TV just in time to watch the first World Trade Center tower collapse.

It's hard to believe 10 years have passed since that day. I need look no further than my 2-year-old son -- who is now introducing himself to restaurant hostesses -- to see how quickly time flies. Anniversaries tend to get you waxing nostalgic, so I got to thinking about technologies I couldn't have imagined at the time but ended up playing a huge role in my life over the past decade. To that end:

  • Google: It existed before 2001 of course, but it wasn't used like it is now. Today, it is an extension of our brains, a way to seek out any information we need at a given moment and have it delivered instantly. I use it every day for one reason or another, and perhaps more importantly, I feel like I simply know more now about my life and my world than I ever would have without Google.
  • GPS: Prior to the advent of commercial GPS devices, I loathed going on road trips. The stress from worrying about getting lost made driving difficult and the entire trip less enjoyable for me. Then in 2005, I got my first GPS receiver attached to a PocketPC device (remember those?) and suddenly I was ready and willing to head out to parts unknown. They all have their quirks, of course, and you have to use common sense when following their directions, but for the most part the technology solved a problem that was negatively affecting my life -- can't ask for more than that.
  • DVR: This one would never had made the list prior to the birth of my son. Sure, it was nice to be able to record TV shows without a videotape and skip over commercials, but it was never more than a convenience. Nowadays, I don't know how I'd live without it. I monitor my child's TV watching time very carefully -- he gets no more than 30 to 45 minutes a day -- but it is invaluable to be able to push a button and have "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" appear instantly, especially when Daddy is trying to cook dinner.
  • Digital cameras: Remember way back in 2001 when we were still dropping off rolls of film at the local CVS to have them developed? Yeah, me neither.
  • Wi-Fi: I first used Wi-Fi in 1999 when the first iBooks were released, but it wasn't until 2003 that I was using it full time. We take it for granted now, but back then the ability to get our work done on the couch instead of our desks was huge!
  • iPod, iPhone, iPad: To think that none of these devices existed on Sept. 11, 2001, is crazy. It seems like they've always been with us, but in fact, I managed to live 23 years of my life without one of them. I can't imagine how that's possible.
  • Twitter: I've written extensively about what makes Twitter great. In a nutshell, instantaneous communication with people who have information I want and/or need is pretty amazing.
  • Microsoft Kinect: The Kinect is more than just dancing to Michael Jackson songs or swinging your imaginary lightsaber (though those things are awesome). The application for motion controls is limitless. Go back and re-watch "Minority Report" if you don't believe me.
  • Morgan Bonner is Pre-Press Manager and a systems administrator for the Packet and Gazette.