September 15, 2014

WHY YOU SHOULD | Yield to the Power of the Smartphone

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By RUTH WEISSMANN

When we think of inventions, we think of the Einstein and his lightbulb, of pulleys and contraptions that ooze and bubble and send sparks up from a basement. We don’t often think of the tools that we use on a daily basis – no, we tend to think old.

But reminisce no longer. The smartphone just may be the greatest human invention there ever was. I know that many have doubts about what this growing population of technology-hungry kids glued to their devices will do to our society, but let’s think smaller. Let’s think about what we were able to achieve within the 10 square inches that is the average smartphone smartphone.

Cameras used to be enormous. Once upon a time, they took photos sans color and needed large boxes and drapes. People sat statuesque, faces frozen so as not to upset the shutter  speed, which would ruin the photograph. Today, we snap as many photos as children pop Skittles on Halloween. A recent study reveals that humans will have taken more photos in the past few weeks than in the past century. The smartphone has enabled us to repeatedly capture life in all 64 Crayola colors. We have the ability to edit them in our hands, to zoom in and out, to place filters that flatter our complexion.

Then there’s the clock. Clocks are made with tiny, complex gears, and it’s rare to come across one that serves as both a stopwatch and a timer. Not to mention one that has the ability to view times in global locations down to the minute. We set timers to take our laundry out at the right time. We wake up to the jazzy marimba sounds of the alarm.

And what about the calculator? The earliest known record of that particular invention was 1642, dating back to the Renaissance. We use them in Calculus I classes to make life less stressful, or to add up the correct tip for the waitress that served your short stack with extra whipped cream. True to its mathematical essence, there are an infinite number of things you can do with a calculator, all sitting a few taps away inside your smartphone.

We can’t forget about the map app that can be used to find the nearest burger joint. Years ago, atlases were crammed into glove compartments with napkins, chapstick and parking meter quarters. Years ago, people pulled into gas stations to ask which left turn would take them toward the highway. Years ago, we were lost. Smartphones have changed that.

Although I could go on through the invention and consolidation of tools like the compass, weather, calendar or even the vast worlds of music and various online apps kept on today’s phones, I won’t. Because you get it – some of the most critical inventions of all time can be found on a smartphone. It’s a mind-blowing thing, and hopefully next time you pull out your iPhone to snap a photo or add up your rent, you’ll think back in awe to what those 10 square inches can really do.

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