“Wow! So you just pull two fingers apart on the screen to zoom in on the site?” This was my mother’s reaction last week to seeing the power of pinch-to-zoom on her new iPhone 3GS. Yes, just last week my mother, a successful business woman but a technophobe at heart, discovered that the iPhone has a little thing called multitouch! You know, that small feature that made Apple’s first phone go down in cellphone history. And her amazement didn’t stop there; she was blown away by every phone feature from the Notes application’s “cute” handwriting font to the “cool” animation of the trash can that sucks down messages like a “garbage disposal.”
I am recounting my mom’s first experiences with the iPhone not only for your amusement—though it was incredibly funny—but also to share with you how her wonderment and reactions triggered a set of thoughts and feelings. Perhaps being in the throes of Thanksgiving and the holiday season intensified my response, but as a technology journalist and gadget fanatic I found myself reflecting on the impressiveness of our technology today and how much I take it for granted. It surely was a change from criticizing operating systems and the maker's of the BlackBerry!
While my mother was elated about the ease-of-use and animated features of her new phone as well as what she could now do on-the-go, I was equally excited to teach her how to use the iPhone and open this undiscovered world to her. Rarely, if ever, do I stop to think about people who stick to the simplest functions on their desktops or cellphones because they are fearful about venturing into new technology territory or those who don’t even have access to the Internet or the money to buy a computer.
One of my favorite holiday technology gifts for the past two years has been One Laptop per Child’s (OLPC) Give 1, Get 1 program. The program, which is not been continued this holiday season, offered individuals the opportunity to buy the non-profit’s XO laptop for $399, while at the same time giving a child of the developing world an XO of their own. OLPC also allowed those who wanted to just give a laptop the ability to do so by donating $199. One of the most personally rewarding experiences of my life was starting a pilot project in Mali, Africa when I worked at LAPTOP Magazine. The bright green, educational XO laptops brought incredible smiles to children’s faces that had never seen computers before and, even more importantly, put a connected and digital learning tool in their small hands. This holiday season, you can still make a donation to OLPC or to another program that helps provide computers and technology to kids in need such as LittleGeeks and GeekCorps.
Technology adds new dimensions to my life on a daily basis and enabling it to do the same for others is an incredibly rewarding experience. Teaching someone how to do more with their phone or laptop or buying a low-cost computer for someone who cannot afford one is a wonderful way to give and open the digital world we cherish so much to others that may be more timid or underprivileged. So, beyond hopping onto the next new app or buying that new gadget you are lusting for, try giving a bit of your tech know-how to someone or make a small investment in bringing the digital to someone you don’t even know. Believe me, you will be glad you did; and may even get a few laughs in the process.