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The Social Impact of the Computer. J.A.N. Lee Virginia Tech. A HISTORICAL APPROACH. When did computers begin to have an effect on people? How have we been affected? What HAVE we done? Have we become too dependent on computers? What can we do about it?.

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The social impact of the computer

The Social Impact of the Computer

J.A.N. Lee

Virginia Tech


A historical approach
A HISTORICAL APPROACH

  • When did computers begin to have an effect on people?

  • How have we been affected?

  • What HAVE we done?

  • Have we become too dependent on computers?

  • What can we do about it?


When did computers begin to have an effect on people
When did computers begin to have an effect on people?

  • The early machines - one-off, isolated

  • 1950: UNIVAC - the first multi-frame machine

  • 1955: IBM 650 - the first University machine

  • 1960: IBM 1620 - the first College machine

  • The period of the “priest-hood” of programmers



When did computers begin to have an effect on people1
When did computers begin to have an effect on people?

  • 1965-1975: Time sharing

    • 1964: The first e-mail

    • “Personal computing”

    • Immediate feedback

    • Programming by trial and error

  • 1965 - The introduction of the mini-computer

  • The beginning of the period of computing as a “public utility” - for the privileged few


When did computers begin to have an effect on people2
When did computers begin to have an effect on people?

  • 1970s - The microcomputer for enthusiasts

  • 1975 - Computers in the office

  • 1980 - The IBM PC

  • 1984 - The Macintosh

  • The period of the “HOME” computer

  • And since then …

    The INTERNET

    For the Millions


When did computers begin to have an effect on people3
When did computers begin to have an effect on people?

  • 1940 - first computation over telephone lines

  • 1960s - the MODEM and Timesharing

  • 1970s - networking

  • 1980s - ARPANet, NSFNet, BITNET, …

    • News groups, LISTSERVs,

  • 1990s - The INTERNET - WWW

    • The period of ubiquitous computing


Ringing the changes
Ringing the Changes

Computer

as a Number

Cruncher

Computer

as a Tool

Computer

as a Search

Engine

Computer

as a Utility

Computer

as a general

purpose system

Computer

as a

Communicator


How have we been affected
How have we been affected?

  • The early days:

    • “computerists” became addicted

    • but proud and dedicated

    • to the public - the concept of the GIANT BRAIN

    • to the insiders - the dumb, recalcitrant, moronic computer


How have we been affected1
How have we been affected?

  • 1950s - the emergence of the HACKER

  • 1960s - the identification of the user

    • The computer replaces the slide rule

    • The job of the “future”

    • The era of job swapping

  • 1970s - the connected user

  • 1980s - the personal computer

  • 1990s - the on-line millions


How have we been affected2
How have we been affected?

  • Users have moved from being an elite “professionally responsible” to a community with widely varying attitudes

  • Very high level applications allow anyone to develop a program

  • Including the untrained, the untrainable, and the don’t-wannabe-trained


The stages of impact
The stages of impact

  • Direct replacement of an activity with little change in productivity

  • Enhancement of activities by improvements in speed and efficiency

  • Extending activities to those that could not be done previously


What have we done
What HAVE we done?

  • Created a “DIGITAL DIVIDE”

    • The have’s and the have’nots

      • Between schools, between school districts

      • Between the old and the young

      • Between parents and children

      • Between male and female

      • Between rich and poor

      • Between town and country


What have we done1
What HAVE we done?

  • Look at almost any job description!

  • Qualifications for a secretary:(1) ...Working knowledge of standard office practices, equipment and word- processing software; ….Preferences given for experience with spreadsheets and graphics software, Microsoft Word, Word Equation and Excel; ... experience editing and proofreading complex documents. (2) Preferences given for experience working on a Mac OS, experience with Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Banner, experience maintaining a database.



The social impact of the computer

Yesterday, Marion was a billing clerk

Today, she’s a whole department.

Friden Advertisement

1965


What have we done2
What HAVE we done?

  • WAREHOUSE SUPERVISOR:

    • Must be computer literate to include word processing, spreadsheets, web-based research, and email. Must have a valid vehicle operator's permit and a good driving record.

We have changed people’s lives

For good or bad?


Informality vs the archive
Informality vs the Archive

  • The e-mail seemed so innocent. "Betty, hi," he remembers cheerfully typing to his colleague. "I haven't been successful reaching you by phone, so I'll try e-mail instead."

  • And so Bill Lampton--then an employee of a large hospital--dashed off the rest of his note on some trivial office matter and hit the send button.

  • Betty never got past the greeting.

  • "I have no idea what you mean about my not returning phone calls," Lampton recalls Betty firing back. "To have you accuse me of ignoring your calls is unthinkable and inexcusable. . . . As to the purpose of the e-mail that you sent me, I prefer not to respond, as I dislike dealing with anyone who assumes the worst of me."


Have we become too dependent on computers
Have we become too dependent on computers?

  • Have we become too dependent on:

  • Television?

  • Housing?

  • Airplanes?

  • Clothing?

  • Prosthetics?

  • Society?

  • Steel?

  • Cars?

  • Oil?

  • Electricity?

  • Telephones?

  • Plastic?


What have we done to society
What have we done to Society?

  • Collapsed time?

  • Collapsed space?

  • Broken down natural barriers?

  • Intermixed incompatible attitudes?

  • Invaded privacy?

  • Made it vulnerable?

  • Created an information overload?


What have we done to society1

For

What have we done to Society?

  • Provided a new industry with expanding employment needs

  • New life for old industries

  • Improved communications

  • Created tools that would otherwise be impossible

  • Saved time

  • Changed the “Atomic Age” into the “Information Age”


What are the dangers
What are the dangers?

  • Using computers where simpler solutions exist

  • Using software in critical situations

    • Safety critical applications

    • Mission critical systems

BUT AREN’T THESE OFFSET BY ADVANTAGES?


What are the advantages
What are the advantages?

  • Using software in critical situations

    • Safety critical applications

    • Mission critical systems

  • More easily upgradeable, replaceable

  • Millions of new uses, new capabilities


What can we do about it
What can we do about it?

  • Should we become Luddites?

  • (See http://www.wikipedia.com/wiki/Luddite)



Should we not continue to develop the computer
Should we NOT continue to develop the computer?

  • We cannot go backward

  • We have not had a MAJOR breakthrough since 1970 - the integrated circuit

  • What is the next big step going to be and where?

  • What will be the effect?


Progress development evolution
Progress, Development, Evolution

  • Whatever we do

    • We will not stop progress

    • We will not stop people using our products in ways that we do appreciate

    • And we WILL find new uses and applications that will be advantageous



One last thought
One last thought

  • Martin Luther King:“Our technology is outstripping our spirituality”