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Wednesday, August 23, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 66, Issue 3 

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Imperiled by technology

Crys Lewis

Technology is something we've all come to depend upon. Often, it can prove extremely beneficial to our existence.

Let's take for example the advanced technology used to save lives in medical practices, or even used by agencies such as the Coast Guard in rescues. This is technology that benefits us.

Some of us, however, depend upon technology much more than we should. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's panicked at the last minute while waiting for the printer to spit out a term paper -- which, admittedly, I should have done a long time before.

When the server that The Daily Cougar is on crashes, the entire operation is put on hold until the problem is resolved. And if the printers should fail, then it is put on hold until they can be fixed -- or replacements can be found.

Not that this occurs often, but occasionally things like that do happen. Trust me, I know. But back to the gist of what this column is about.

Are we too dependent upon technology?

Consider this: When the power goes out across the city, what happens? We lose our precious air-conditioning, entertainment, light and if the electricity is off for too long, we're forced to eat the ice cream in the freezer before it melts entirely.

It's not too much of an inconvenience because we have backup plans. Hospitals have auxiliary generators. Businesses that depend on electricity, such as newspapers or banks, also have alternate power sources.

The local police departments send out officers to direct traffic while the power company sends out emergency crews to resolve the problem. Our backup systems are very efficient now because they need to be. Technology has invaded almost every aspect of our lives. If there weren't officers out directing traffic, there could be any number of traffic accidents. The amount would quadruple if the power outage happened at night.

A technological device that takes a prominent place in our everyday lives is the telephone. We use it to order products from the Home Shopping Network, call 911, talk to friends and family in faraway places and to schedule our classes.

But wait, schedule our classes over the phone? Yes, it can be done. And has been done. But when the lines are continually busy the UH VIP system is next to useless.

Not that it doesn't have its benefits. It is an efficient alternative to having students walk in and manually schedule their semesters, going to each individual professor and having him or her sign off on a form and then going to their adviser to file their requests. Some students still have to do this anyway, but for the majority of students at UH, the VIP system is a convenient way to deal with the chaos of a new semester.

If the VIP system were to fail completely, students would be filing in one by one to schedule their classes. While this example isn't as drastic as the power going out and the world being plunged into darkness, it's still a huge inconvenience for students if the VIP system is shut down or overloaded.

Students and administration are still overly dependent upon the VIP system, but any other system has its disadvantages as well. If we went to online registration, it would prove even more easy to use and convenient than the clumsy phone system currently in place -- but then there would still be the chance of the server crashing when too many people log on to register.

Lewis, a senior political science major, 
can be reached at dccampus@mail.uh.edu.

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