Computers making a difference

We take computers for granted but it wasn’t that long ago we were doing a lot of things we now do with computers by hand.

I suspect the world’s become a different place since the arrival of computers.

Let’s consider a few places computers are making a difference.

Banking

I remember the days when a bank teller wrote entries by hand in your passbook every time you deposited or withdrew money, and the long queues at the bank. When I started working in a bank, they were still using passbooks but a computer did the writing, and then passbooks became plastic cards and the computer sent you a monthly statement.

Then banks replaced tellers with safes attached to a computer (automated teller machines) which identified your account from that plastic card and dispensed cash into your hand.

Hardly anybody uses cash these days. We get paid electronically, we pay our bills online and use those plastic cards to make our purchases. There’s even talk of us becoming a cashless society, thanks to computers.

Communications

Where would we be without our smartphones? How often do we stop and consider that we’re walking around with a computer in our hand or in our handbag? And, isn’t it so easy to stay in touch?

It’s not just personal communications. Computers are all through the telephone system. We might not like speaking to a computer, choosing which button to press, or keying in our customer number when we call customer support but those things allow the computer to route our call to the appropriate person and display our information on that person’s screen when we reach the top of the queue.

Health Services

It used to be accepted that nobody but a pharmacist could read a doctor’s handwriting. These days when you visit, the doctor spends most of the time typing and the script is printed by a computer. Not only does that make it easier for the pharmacist, it also creates a legible record that the next doctor can read.

But that’s not all computers are doing in health services, as you can read in 8 Ways Technology Is Improving Your Health by Karen Reed.

Policing

Modern policing involves extensive use of computers. Take a look inside a patrol car the next time you see one parked in the street and think about the use police make of databases. It might not be like what you see on CSI just yet, but computers have given police an edge many of us (except crime writers like me) don’t think about.

For example, in response to a growing heroin problem in New York City, the NYPD recently announced it is using data collected by its officers on the street to predict where heroin will show up next in the city. Apparently, the NYPD has been using data collected by its officers to manage crime in the city for several years. Can you imagine them doing that without computers to collect, collate and analyze their data?

In the UK, police use a database called HOLMES 2 to analyze the massive amounts of data collected during investigations. That type of database makes information visible, instead of leaving it in one officer’s head or notebook, and allows more officers to join the dots.

I think it’s got to point where we’ve become dependent on computers, so we’d better make sure there’s an ongoing supply of renewable electricity, as I can’t see us going back to a pre-computer world. What do you think?


Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West crime series, the Living Alone series of self-help books for men, Sharing the Journey: Reflections of a Reluctant Mystic, The New Girlfriendand Everyday Business  Skills series.

Working Smarter

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We’re all looking for clever ways to work smarter and get more done, hoping the next new productivity app will be the one that helps us get things done faster and with less effort.

Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, when you think about it, some of the steps you can take to work smarter don’t involve apps at all. Continue reading “Working Smarter”

What’s blocking your personal productivity?

10Productivity is an economic concept that arose as a way of measuring the efficiency of production processes.

Now, it’s routinely applied to employees – people like you.

You are expected to be more productive every year.

You need to deliver more from your personal effort to justify your continued employment.

‘What, you want a raise? Show me how you’re going to be more productive. This is a business, not a charity!’

And, don’t think you’re immune if you are self-employed – all productivity depends on your personal effort. Continue reading “What’s blocking your personal productivity?”

Digital libraries

40 years is a long time to live in one house.

It’s definitely sufficient time to accumulate a lot of books.

We’re moving out and going overseas for a while.

Photo_kazuend_UnsplashImage by: kazuend | Unsplash

We stood together in the library and looked at the seven floor to ceiling bookcases holding somewhere in excess of two thousand books, and at the six yellow containers of children’s books piled up between two of the bookcases. Continue reading “Digital libraries”

A view from Australia

Leaves on pathAustralia is having an unusual double dissolution election, where every member of both houses of the Federal Parliament is up for re-election. Usually, only half the Senate is contested at a federal election. So, this one could be interesting.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived back in Australia from the USA on Monday, and watched the TV coverage in the lounge at Melbourne airport while waiting for my connection, was the difference in the tone of the campaign being waged here. Continue reading “A view from Australia”

Fire trucks in New York.

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Image by Anthony Delanoix | Unsplash.com

The fire trucks go a lot slower in New York than they do in Adelaide.

For someone used to seeing fire trucks moving along city streets at speed, watching them thread their way through traffic on Eighth Avenue, with sirens wailing and horns blaring, is disconcerting – and hard on the ears. Maybe things burn a lot slower here than they do in Australia. Who knows? Continue reading “Fire trucks in New York.”