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U3A Writing: Silver Surfers

Ray Harman reports on a discussion of matters electronic.

Ray Harman reports on a discussion of matters electronic.

Our discussion group took as its topic The Internet.

Applications and guidelines existed for some 20 years before the network went public in 1990. WWW was born, the invention of English scientist Tim Berners- Lee in 1998. From those beginnings we now enjoy a vast network
consisting of millions of private, public, academic, and business Web sites in all parts of the world, all linked by electronic and optical technologies.

The internet carries a vast array of information and services and supports electronic mail.

After this rather brief and elementary introduction our group quickly moved on to their own experiences of extracting information from the Web. Emphasis was placed on the need to type the correct words ino a search engine. particularly when buying goods on-line. One member who required a canopy for a garden swinging settee inserted the words `Garden Swingers` only to be met with a screen that turned red and a warning note informing him that the site he had chosen may contain details of an explicit sexual nature and did he wish to continue - `Yes` or `No`. Despite the temptation the mouse was grabbed and 'No' selected before the wife re-entered the room.

Shopping on-line as well as banking, although used by some. did not appeal to others who still preferred to push their way round large `Temples of Consumption` line up at `Check-out`. paying by card or cash before being sent on their way with an insincere "Have a nice day".

On-line banking was equally unappealing to those who preferred to join a long queue to receive a quarterly balance statement in a high street bank where only two of the six cash desks were in operation.

One might ask why, with all today's electronic wizardry, would anyone wish to be inconvenienced in this way when a few taps on a keyboard in one's own comfortable room would achieve the same end?

In reply to that question members said they wanted to see and touch the goods they were buying. They also wanted human involvment, talking to strangers face to face.

This led on to thoughts on how many activities are today carried out in isolation,working with keyboards, whereas in the past we had to go out to meet and converse with people.

Many of todays youths are criticised for their inability to express themselves verbally. The many hours they spend using computers or texting on mobile phones could be involved in this inability.

The group was mystified by cyber bullying. Why bother switching on computer or mobile phone to see or hear oneself being abused?

Are we becoming more isolated as the result of electronic technology? The question remained unanswered.

Our group then adjourned to enjoy mince pies, wine and conversation - with not a single computer to be seen.

Here's a happy new year to you all from East Maldon U3A.


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