Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Dependent on convenience...

Posted 4/09/19 (Tue)

Back in late October there was a story about the grocery store in Kenmare that had to shut down for the first time in at least 42 years because of burned out circuits in a printer that shorted out two cash registers.

Some people suggested why not have the customers make cash transactions? Why not get a battery operated calculator to add up merchandise totals?

That’s easier said than done because when those computer boards short circuited, they locked everything up.

So just imagine that for a moment. What happens when we can’t use computers such as during a power outage, a blown circuit breaker or worse yet, a fire?

In the newspaper business, we’ve been hit with lightning that knocks out power, then what do we do? We are dependent on computers to produce our next edition. What do we do, sit around and twiddle our thumbs until the power comes back on?

This kind of thing can happen in a bank, a military supply room, a school, radio stations, medical facilities, salmon canneries, Boys Scout Troops and even bakeries.

You name it, we are so dependent on computers that we’ve gotten to a point that we don’t know how to act if we don’t have them.

Hospitals have generators to back up their power needs should the city go dark. If you’re out for a meal at a good restaurant, chances are the chef can build a meal from memory and serve that meal by candlelight. But how do you fill your gas tank when there is no electricity? And what does the power company do when the power goes out?

Back in the mid ‘80s when the Soviet threat was still very real, all of us in the U.S. military learned about electromagnetic pulse, which is essentially a man-made lightning strike designed to disable the enemy from moving.

About that same time, there was a lieutenant colonel in the North Dakota National Guard who insisted this “new” tool called a fax machine was going to save the Army. Let’s assume then that the Soviet Union launches an electromagnetic pulse. The fax machine would be useless because for a time electricity is neutralized. Unless messages are physically received, that new machine is nothing more than a large, expensive, camouflaged desk ornament.

If you talk to statistical analysts, they will tell you that not every household in the United States has a computer. That’s true. In fact there are more people than you think without computers.

Sixteen-percent of American households don’t have computers and 27 percent don’t have broadband Internet.

If something bizarre happens where computers are knocked out for any length of time, those are the people who you want to cozy up to because they aren’t so dependent on this wonderful technology... when it works.

We’ve just become too dependent on modern technology simply because it’s convenient. We all want life to be easier, who wouldn’t, but if we lost computer technology, the United States would most likely fall into anarchy.

Talking from experience, pagination has changed the entire dynamic of how newspapers are produced.

There’s no more cut and wax, there’s no more border tape for ads and photographs and we don’t have to “eyeball” uneven columns.

There aren’t a lot of newspapers that have dark rooms any longer, nor any of the old equipment. It’s all been replaced and destroyed. So how could we produce a newspaper if we didn’t have electricity to paginate the pages?

We would be lost, the grocery store would be lost, the Army supply room wouldn’t be issuing anything because the computers are down.

Communications hasn’t even been touched yet, other than radio stations being dependent on computers.

Here in this golden age of wireless, we depend on our mobile phones to communicate by bouncing a signal off the nearest cellular tower.

Even more intense is how much communication in this nation is carried out through satellites. How do you think a morning news anchor can be sitting at a desk in New York talking to a reporter in Yemen and they are having a conversation as if they were next to each other?

It’s via satellite and that has changed how TV functions and in some cases the Internet too.

But again, if there isn’t any power, there isn’t any communication, unless you know how to send up smoke signals.

It’s something to think about.