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From business deployment to everyone's enjoyment, technology is everywhere.


By Clint Hamblin

It doesn't matter if you're transferring contracts via e-mail or looking for a date with specific gene pool qualifications, we've all had some experience with the blessings and the burdens of technology. In the 21st Century, the science fiction of the 1960's has become the reality of the day. Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek television series was futuristic but was it science fiction or a prediction of the future?



Vulcans, Klingons and Romulans... Oh My!  When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to see Star Trek, a futuristic television program where people conversed with computers, worked on touch-sensor flat paneled screens, operated portable scanners, used flip-open communicators and instantly exchanged thoughts with any species in the galaxy. "Beam  me up, Scottie," became the phrase of the day and represented a travel process where a human body was disintegrated at the place of origin, transported and instantly reintegrated at another specified location. WOW! This was spectacular stuff developed by great imaginations but was it also a preview of coming attractions?


With the exception of high speed molecular travel, LCD touch screens have been common in offices for years and scanning systems including MRI, bar code and eye scanning are not exactly new technologies. Captain Kirk's flip-open communicator is a good example, mine happens to be a Motorola T730 cell phone with a color screen, voice recognition dialing and an Internet connection including instant text messaging. This gadget boasts a variety of features remarkably similar to the device Captain Kirk used to communicate with Mr. Spock on the original Enterprise.


We Are Borg. One of the most fascinating species invented by Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek family is the Borg, half man - half machine beings with a united consciousness. They are known as the Collective - all networked with each one knowing all that all know with one mind and one stream of thought. When one Borg has an idea, all Borg are aware and participate in data information exchanges to help keep them all connected.


If this sounds familiar, it should because most of us use a similar network for communications ? it's called the Internet. When we need to contact a group of clients or friends, it's common to use e-mail to blast our message out over the World Wide Web. Not unlike the Borg communications system, information flies from one source to another anywhere in the world or to anywhere that is part of the network. E-mails arrive at their destination in seconds and responses can be returned immediately. We are connected. We are "nearly" Borg.


Web sites now function as full businesses - many virtual and without the traditional associated real estate. Fill out a form and buy a car. Find a roommate or a lover.  There's hardly a business anywhere that doesn't have some Web representation including the Newbury Street and Back Bay Guide. Check out www.backbayguide.com .


Find a home through Coldwell Banker at www.nemoves.com  without spending hours looking at properties that do not meet your criteria. You can either go to their office on Dartmouth Street in Boston or to the Web site where you can enter the location, price range and style of property you're looking for and be on your way to finding a home without having to put on your shoes. Some real estate companies offer virtual tours of properties so you can see the rooms inside without being there. Now that's a real time saver.


No time to cook? Try ordering dinner from your favorite restaurant through Dining In at www.diningin.com  This company was founded in Boston in 1988 and is now available around the nation. Log into their site with your personal user name and password and place your order. Within an hour or so, dinner is brought to your home or office and this goes way beyond pizza delivery with great menu selections including Lobster Ravioli from Boston's Atlantic Fish on Boylston Street to Sushi from Ginza Japanese Restaurant in Chinatown.


If you love to cook but have no time to shop, try www.peapod.com  where you can place your grocery order and have all of your items delivered to your door. The Web site lets you establish your own grocery list for easy re-ordering. Click on a checkbox and you've ordered a gallon of milk. The delivery charge can be as little as $4.95 and most people claim it's a great time saver. Although there are some of us who prefer to squeeze the melons before we buy them, many people depend on Peapod to effortlessly get their groceries.


High Tech Coffee shops. Do you remember when coffee shops were located in basements of buildings where folk music was played and people drank lots of coffee and tea? Coffee shops are above ground these days featuring dozens of delicious international coffees, homemade desserts and Wi-Fi. Short for Wireless Fidelity, a take off of High Fidelity, Wi-Fi generally means wireless or without connection. Most laptops now come with a wireless network card that senses when the device is in range of a wireless router where it can connect to a network or Internet line. It means sitting on the terrace or by the pool with a laptop and still having access to the Internet or files on your network server or another PC without the wires.


Starbucks Coffee Company along with T-Mobile USA Inc. and HP (Hewlett Packard) have established Wi-Fi access throughout Boston and including more than 2,900 Starbucks coffeehouses around the country. Order a latte, surf the Web, continue working on that research paper or chat with your friends right at a Starbucks table via a fast, Wi-Fi Internet connection. Boston students love this service as Starbucks reports a brisk student business after 9 PM.


Boston Public Library.  Do you remember those "dog-eared" index card catalogs at the library and how tedious it once was to look up a book by the author's name? Now, the Boston Public Library allows you to bring your Wi-Fi enabled laptop to any branch of the BPL and after a minor configuration on your system; you can have wireless access to all of the library's resources. Research is a breeze because you're spending less time looking for the information and are able to devote more time to whatever project you're working on.


Shopping for Love. There's almost no area where technology hasn't taken a position. With Internet Dating, you can find anything you desire. There are men looking for women, women looking for men, men looking for men, women looking for women and, uh, let's see ? is anyone missing? People fill out applications requesting specific hair color, height, eye color, ethnicity, shoe size, breast size or genital configuration. If you're looking for a blonde female Baptist with green eyes and a Friday-only fetish for feet, you might find her living next door. How about a sexy dominatrix with a passion for pottery or a "bear" with an interest in ballet?


Internet dating services provide members with the ability to search a database for specific types of people with the educational background, physical appearance and prerequisites that appeal to you. If you're going away, many international sites offer access to a worldwide database of hotties. Once you find your match, send an e-mail and move the relationship to the next level. Some sites list male and female escort divisions offering a la carte sexual services all chargeable to plastic. Just remember to make sure that both your e-shopping cart and your libido is big enough to handle all that you buy.


Oops! Mistakes can happen

Chatting through e-mail can be productive, fun and easy - little one-way conversations without interruptions and you can edit your final proclamation before sending. But beware as little technology mistakes can cause major problems.


When the e-mail conversation of a group of young Boston females turned to boyfriends, the question, "What are you looking for in a guy," came up. The e-mail response started, "This is what I want in a man," as one young lady listed all of the body specifications she expected or wished for. From hat size to shoe size and everything in between, she left out no detail describing the physical parts she required including how they should be shaped and how well they should function.


A few minutes after clicking on "send," replies started arriving from all over the world. "I'll be in Boston next week and would love to meet you," one said. Yet another announced, "I have everything you want and I know how to use it." "What's going on," our baffled executive assistant thought.


Do you know what a "global mailing list" is, boys & girls? Instead of her small group of girlfriends, she had sent her request using the company's Global Distribution List and that translated to her sending this embarrassing missive to every person in every branch of the company throughout the world. When she found out that several thousand people received this message, our horrified young lady refused to come to work for a week. Upon her return to the Boston office, she had to face some of the most provocative responses and offers from some of the smartest and self-proclaimed well endowed men from all over the world. Is this an "oops?" Maybe not!


Technology Struggles.  We hear predictions that technology will get easier.  Software now does more intuitively but we still see people struggling to handle ATM cards at the local Shaw's Market.  We're all familiar with the constant assaults on our systems through virus attacks.  Now, we have "spy-ware" that records all of your activities on your computer and then reports that information to advertisers or people that first steal your identity and then your money.

Immediately after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, corporate leaders began ordering complete home systems that emulate their office. "I would rather not come in to Boston if I can work from home," said the CEO of a major company who added a separate floor to his home and only comes into Boston for meetings. As we move forward in technology, reports seem to indicate that more businesses are being run from remote offices located in family units than ever before. Whether you're a powerful executive with important everyday decisions to make or an executive assistant responsible for implementing your boss's directives, there are great tools available to work from home or other remote location.


For some people, it can be difficult to manage technology. Training is everything. Set a goal and then find out what you need to do to learn how to achieve that goal. If you like learning how to do it yourself, plan on spending a lot of time doing research but if you just want to get there and start working, hire a computer consultant who knows how to give you what you need. Learn from the consultant's experience and quickly move on to doing the work. You don't have to know how to build a car to drive one.


Most computer consulting companies participate in all development and training aspects of corporate and home based computer systems. These days a great deal of time is spent wielding the technology sword against aggressive "tech terrorists" plotting to destroy our businesses and our fun.  It's a big part of maintaining your system. Be sure that you have the appropriate software to deal with it.


Technology in your lifestyle can be an awesome tool to get things done, but before you make that investment of time and money, make sure that you identify your goals and have a good source of help for when you get into trouble.


If science fiction writers continue to predict the future, perhaps computers will do all of the work and we'll be free to transport ourselves to an exotic place at the blink of an eye.  I'm definitely ready for that. Are you?


"Beam me up Scottie."


Clint Hamblin is the owner of Hawthorne Business Services, a Boston based company now celebrating 12 years customizing and developing ACT! Contact Management databases as well as managing small to medium-sized networks for local, regional and national accounts.

Clint Hamblin can be reached at clint@hbsboston.com




- What's first -

E-mail or breakfast?


Is our society becoming more divided when it comes to using technology? Do you welcome tech innovation or immediately frown when the latest and greatest becomes available? "I was hired to answer the phones - not run a computer," a disgruntled employee said as her new software was being installed. "Just teach me exactly what I need to know - nothing more," was her credo and yet a few months later, our anti-tech telephone operator had completely redecorated her screen with seasonal themes and nautical screen savers.


Do you still buy a newspaper? You can subscribe to newspapers from all over the world and they will send you daily "front-page" headlines that allow you to search for all the stories that interest you - all via e-mail. When the story breaks, it's immediately on the newspaper's Web site. You don't have to wait until tomorrow to see today's headlines.


Cell phone or land line - which do you have? Many have both but we're seeing an increase in the number of people who choose to only have a cell phone. Coverage is almost everywhere and it's a good thing because when was the last time you had to look for a pay phone? What does a pay phone look like? I forget.


Going someplace? Do you need directions? Lots of people go to the Internet and print off a Mapquest page, which includes a map and move by move directions to get where they are going. On-Star, a cell phone like service for your car, provides person to person directions and will actually guide you all the way. But, if you're really high tech, you'll get in your car and enter the address in your Global Positioning System (GPS), relax and enjoy the ride. No need to worry because your GPS will get you there as fast as possible and with little stress.


Here's how technology works for me: I start my day looking at e-mail. Leaving the house with my wireless earphone that goes with my flip-open, color screen and Internet ready cell phone, I carry my IPAQ Pocket PC that I just finished synchronizing with my ACT contact management software giving me my contacts, calendar and e-mail in the palm of my hand. If I need to add a contact or alter my schedule, I've got it with me. If I'm asked, "Are you available next Thursday for a meeting," I have the answer. I make the appointment and everything synchronizes to my PC at my office when I return.


The author's Global Positioning System (GPS) (below), and IPAQ (above) Pocket PC helps to make appointments and synchronizes to his office PC.


My car has the best GPS; it connects to a satellite and gives me animated maps of where I am and where I am going.  It's the best because it's current -  I'm not carrying around 7 CD's with maps from all over the United States in the trunk of my car. When the satellite updates locations, I'm updated automatically. I don't have to change my CD maps. If I don't want to look at the map too often, I turn on the gentle female voice and "she" takes me every step of the way. Recently, I used it to guide me to the opening of Stil, a new clothing store on Newbury Street. My car knows exactly where to go, but whether I'm visiting clients in New York City or friends in Vermont, I feel secure knowing that the car is taking me in the right direction. "Take a right at the next light," she softly announces and if I make a mistake, I don't get a harsh comment like I might get from a passenger. "Make a legal U-turn at the next stop," she softly reminds me. How civilized is that?


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