When Jay Edelberg wakes up in the morning, he has a hot cup of coffee waiting for him. He sits down to breakfast and reviews the newspaper headlines on his handheld computer. Jay usually listens to music as he gets ready for work; he has all of his favorite songs saved as music files on his mp3 player. Then he steps outside to start the car--with a remote starter--so that the car will be warm by the time he leaves for work, around 7:30.
When Jay gets to work he reviews some of the email newsletters he receives, as well as his work-related mail. Usually it takes Jay about an hour to go through all of his emails. "I don't make many phone calls at work. I communicate mostly by email, especially with outside clients." Today Jay has to hand in a report to his supervisor. He makes sure that the word processing program checks it for spelling and grammar before he attaches it to an email and sends it out.
Jay usually spends eight or nine hours at the office. When he comes home after work, he's usually tired. Tonight he sticks his dinner in the microwave and sits down to watch his favorite TV show--from the night before. It's automatically recorded for him every week by his digital video recorder. "That way I don't have to worry about rushing home for my favorite program or wonder if I set the VCR correctly." After the show, he logs on to the computer to read his personal emails. He has received some photos from his sister, so he downloads them, looks at them online, and then saves them in a folder. He sees that his friend Gary is on the instant messaging system so he says "hello" and they chat for a while. Then he does his errands, all on the Internet. First, he buys his father's Christmas present (a book about birds of the Amazon) and a CD Rom for learning French. Then, he orders a new printer ribbon for his computer from an online office supply store. Finally, he finds a cheap fare to Montreal to go skiing in January (and to practice his French). It only takes him about twenty minutes. In fact, Jay rarely leaves the house to go shopping, nor does he go to travel agents. "I hate crowded malls and stores, especially around Christmas time. And I find that the best plane fares and hotel deals are on the Web. In fact, I buy almost everything online: books, CDs, prescriptions, groceries...I even do my banking online."
When asked how technology affects his life, Jay says, "I don't think technology makes me lazy at all. In fact, with the time technology saves me, I usually do other things, like work. I also have more free time to spend with friends, either in person or online."
Priscilla Dawes's life is very different from Jay's. She does not own a computer or a television set. In the morning she makes coffee on the stove, reads the paper, and takes the public bus to work since she doesn't own a car.
Priscilla's workday usually lasts from 9:00 to 5:00. She keeps all of her work files in filing cabinets. She doesn't use a computer because she doesn't have to. "This system works just fine for me," she says, "and I don't have to worry about files getting erased." At work she communicates mostly by phone, or people come into the office to see her. Today, after work, Priscilla has some errands to run. First she stops at the drug store to have a prescription filled. She has to wait about thirty minutes, so she browses next door at the bookstore, flipping through some of the new hardbacks. Then she goes to the supermarket to stock up on groceries. Because it's the evening, the lines are long and she doesn't get home until about 7:00.
Priscilla doesn't own a microwave. She worries about the effects of the radiation on her health and feels that her home cooked meals taste better and are more nutritious than frozen or microwave meals. Tonight, however, since she gets home late, she just opens a can of soup. After dinner, she usually reads a good book or talks on the phone with her friends.
In addition to talking on the phone, Priscilla still writes letters to her family and friends. She has never used email. "If I need to send an email or use a computer for something, I have a friend do it for me. Otherwise I don't find that a computer is a necessary part of life, and people really appreciate receiving letters in this day and age."
When asked about how technology affects everyday life, she says, "I don't like what technology has done to our society. Everybody is always spending money on the newest gadgets. People don't write letters anymore. Most kids don't even know how to spell—they have computers to do it for them. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if people spend more time with their computers than they do with each other."