It’s a Different World

As I was reflecting back on the tragedy of 9/11, I was struck by how different our world is today from what it was just twenty years ago. Especially from a technology perspective.

In September 2001, nobody had a smartphone, unless you considered the earliest generation of BlackBerry phones to be “smart.” And if you wanted to take a picture back then, you needed to have a dedicated device known as a camera and you had to load the camera with film and send it out to be developed. Now photography, except for the old school purists, is done mostly on smartphones and it’s virtually all digital.

If you wanted to access the internet — known then as the World Wide Web — in the days before broadband was widely available, you had to connect via what was known as “dial-up,” which used a telephone landline to connect to the internet. This meant that you could only use either the phone line or the internet at the same time. Prehistoric, right?

Social media didn’t really exist back then. In 2001 Microsoft released MSN Messenger and Friendster was in its infancy. No Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, or Tik Tok. No YouTube. Not even WordPress, which started up in May 2003. Texting wasn’t even a word in 2001. And if you said the word “emoji,” people would think you were speaking a foreign language.

In 2001, you could subscribe to Netflix and have DVDs of movies delivered to your home. You remember DVDs right? They superseded video cassette tapes that you would get at your local video store. Remember? Netflix’s streaming service was introduced six years after 9/11. And that flat screen, high def TV you probably watch Netflix on were just introduced in the late 1990s and had barely scratched the surface of television sales.

Google was a relative newcomer to the search engine field. The most popular search engines at the time were Yahoo, AltaVista, Lycos, and Excite. I even remember using Ask Jeeves!

In 2001, biometrics like facial recognition were in their infancy. Now every smartphone uses facial recognition to unlock it. Alexa and Siri were girl’s names. “The cloud” was a weather term.

Tracking someone by satellite via street cameras or GPS on their phone still seemed like science fiction. If you needed to figure out a route to get from point A to point B, you needed a physical map. The Garmin Street Pilot was one of the first standalone GPS devices, and that was introduced in the late 90s. It wasn’t until 2005 that Google Maps was introduced as a desktop utility and as a smartphone app in 2008.

Security at airports was mostly privately run, and may have included walking through a metal detector. Passengers could take baseball bats and blades up to 4 inches long on the plane. Family members could go through security to the gate to say goodbye. Identification wasn’t always required and nobody took off their shoes. Passengers typically needed to arrive only 30 minutes before their scheduled flight time.

These are just a few of the changes that occurred to me off the top of my head. How about you? How different is your life today due to technology than it was just twenty short years ago?

Supercharged

Eleven days ago my wife an I purchased an electric vehicle (EV). So far it’s been a great experience except for one thing: the time it takes to charge the car. As I explained in this post, the car comes with a portable charger that plugs into a standard household outlet. But charging on a 120 Volt, 20 Amp circuit wall outlet is excruciatingly slow. Sort of like watch golf on TV. 🥱

So I made the decision to purchase and install a “Level 2” charger in my garage, which charges the car eight times faster than the “Level 1” standard wall outlet. Eight times faster! Woo hoo!

Well, that Level 2 charger is now installed. I guess I could have installed it myself, but in order to avoid death by electrocution or causing an electrical fire and burning my house down, I hired a professional electrician. In less than three hours he had the JuiceBox charging station installed and ready to rock and roll.

And rock and roll it did. Within five hours of Level 2 charging, my EV was charged enough so that, at my typical rate of driving, my car has enough “juice” to last up to two weeks.

And the fact that I will never ever need to pull into a gas station to fill up my car with polluting gasoline makes my whole body tingle with joy!

Electrifying

Some of you may have noticed — although probably not many — that I wasn’t around much yesterday. That’s because my wife and I spent about four hours at a car dealership to test drive an electric vehicle. And by the time that four hours had passed, we were driving home in our new EV.

Then, once we got home, I spent another four or so hours reading the owner’s manual for our new EV. Because, if you’ve spent your entire life driving a gas- or diesel-powered car with an internal combustion engine, as I have, driving an EV is very different.

I’m not talking about the mechanics of driving. That’s pretty much the same. I’m talking about the driving experience. There’s literally no engine noise. When I turned the car on for the first time, there was no sound of the motor starting up. And when all of the electronics on the instrument cluster and the infotainment center lit up, I wasn’t sure what to do next. it was weird.

I think I have a pretty good handle now on how everything is supposed to work and what all of the icons displayed in front of me mean. But we’ll see tomorrow when my wife and I drive into San Francisco to have lunch with our daughter.

I’m composing this post at 11 pm and the car has been plugged into a regular 120 Volt, 20 Amp circuit wall outlet since we got home at 3:00 this afternoon. the car is now 50% charged, which should get me about 140 miles. It also means tomorrow I need to find an electrician to install a 240 Volt, 40 Amp circuit in my garage so that I can install a Level 2 charging station there.

Why do I need to install a Level 2 charging station in my garage? Well, quite simply, a Level 1 charger will typically get four miles of driving range per hour of charging. A Level 2 charger will get an average of 32 miles of driving range per hour of charging. My new EV has a fully charged range of about 260 miles.

So do the math. If the battery is fully discharged, at four miles per hour of charging, it would take about 65 hours to fully charge the car. But at 32 miles per hour, the car can be fully charged in about eight hours, or essentially overnight. Bingo!

Anyway, it’s time, after all this excitement, to go to sleep. I’m scheduling this post to publish at 3 am my time and I figure that by the time I wake up at about 7 am, my car should be up to a range of about 180 miles. That should get me to San Francisco and back with plenty of juice to spare.

Gas or Electric?

I have a decision to make. Should I get gas or electric? Or maybe a hybrid. I’ve always had gas, but maybe it’s time to move to electric. There are so many things to consider before making my next purchase.

First there is the price of gas. Last time I filled up my tank it cost $4.53 per gallon for regular unleaded gas. It cost me fifty bucks to fill my tank.

Wait, what? Oh, you thought I was talking about a cooktop, a stove, right? Sorry if I misled you. I’m talking about an automobile.

My ten year old car is reaching the point that the maintenance cost and the costs to replace failing or severely worn parts on the near horizon are looming. I took my car to the dealership for a routine service and was told that I need new tires all around, the brakes will soon need to be replaced, there are oil leaks, and the turbocharger is on its last legs. The cost for all of that came to…well, a sizable chunk of chain.

So I’m thinking that it might be time to get a new car. But nowadays, the choices are not as simple as they used to be. And at my age, the next car I buy will likely be the last car I buy, so I want to make a smart decision.

Should my next car be a gas powered vehicle with an internal combustible engine, a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), or an all electric vehicle (EV)? That is the question.

A gas powered car is less expensive to buy and gas stations for a fill-up when needed are conveniently everywhere. But the price of gas continues to soar and internal combustion cars are pollution machines.

And then there are hybrid cars. These cars are powered by an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, which uses energy stored in batteries. A hybrid electric vehicle cannot be plugged in to charge the battery. Instead, the battery is charged through regenerative braking and by the internal combustion engine. These hybrids are more expensive than gas cars, and while they are more “environmentally friendly,” they still produce pollutants.

Another category is plug-in hybrids (PHEV). They use batteries to power an electric motor and gas to power an internal combustion engine. PHEV batteries can be charged using a wall outlet and the car runs on electric power until the battery is nearly depleted, usually from 30 to 50 miles, and then the car automatically switches over to use the gas engine.

For people with short commutes or who only drive to and from the grocery store or to visit local family and friends, these PHEVs, while more expensive than gas cars and regular hybrids, may be a good alternative. However, once the fully electric range is exceeded, we’re back to gasoline.

Finally, there are all electric vehicles (EV). Electric cars function by plugging into a charge point and taking electricity from the grid. They store the electricity in rechargeable batteries that power an electric motor, which turns the wheels. Electric cars accelerate faster than vehicles with traditional fuel engines, so they feel lighter to drive.

The advantages of electric cars are:

  • They are better for the environment; no pollution — zero emissions — from an internal combustion engine
  • Electricity can be a renewable resource, gasoline cannot
  • They require less expensive and less frequent maintenance (no oil changes, fewer moving parts, no spark plugs)
  • They are quieter than gas vehicles
  • There are significant federal (and some state) tax credits available for owners of electric cars
  • There are special highway lanes in some places (e.g., California, where I live) for electric cars

The disadvantages are:

  • Electric cars have a shorter range than gas-powered cars
  • Recharging the battery takes time
  • They are usually more expensive than gas-powered cars
  • It can be difficult to find a charging station, which means having to spend $500-$1,500 to professionally install a home charging station.

So here’s what I’m thinking. Full electric. Yes?

Invasion of Privacy

“Some son of a bitch bastard attempted to hack into my laptop last night,” Randy griped. “Fortunately, whoever tried it didn’t have a clue about how to actually pull it off.”

“Yeah,” Tess agreed. “Hacking into computers seems to be the trend these days. It’s an invasion of privacy. The hackers either try to steal your personal data, including your passwords, or they install malware on your computer and then charge a ransom to remove it.”

“I’m lucky that I am using a VPN with a robust firewall that prevented a breach,” Randy said.

“I read that a lot of people are making the transition from laptops to smartphones for most of the tasks that they used to rely on their computers for,” Tess said.

“Are you kidding?” Randy said. “Using a smartphone instead of a computer would be like trying to pull a boat behind a car with twine rather than with a trailer hitch.”

“Not so, Randy,” Tess said. “There is literally nothing using a laptop that I can’t do just as well or better on my smartphone, including blogging by the way.”


Written for these daily prompts: Fandango’s One-Word Challenge (hack), The Daily Spur (clue), Word of the Day Challenge (trend), Ragtag Daily Prompt (breach), MMA Storytime (transition), and Your Daily Word Prompt (twine).