Space and Time Saving Technology Offers a More Work Friendly Environment
Posted by Aldene Fredenburg on: 2006-04-28 17:23:00
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The computer revolution of the past three decades has irrevocably changed the work landscape. Every conceivable industry, from waste management, to insurance, to publishing, relies heavily on PCs or Macs in every aspect of a business's day-to-day operation. Even hands-on, traditionally manual jobs such as auto repair use computers and other electronic equipment for diagnostic tests and to perform a multitude of tasks.
Along with the enormous benefits of computers in the workplace have come some real headaches. CRT monitors have been heavy, bulky, and unwieldy, and the proliferation of computer cables and telephone wires - more with each added piece of peripheral equipment - has created a regular obstacle course of cables around the desk of every computer user. Computer towers, or hard drives, have become larger along with the increase in operating and storage memory.
Luckily the trend has reversed, and the "smaller is better" view has become more and more popular, along with more versatile, multi-use components. CRTs are being replaced with slimmer, space-saving flat-screen monitors, and towers are being downsized while retaining their powerful capabilities. In addition, mouses (mice?) and computer keyboards are available in wireless versions - two fewer cables, resulting in a cleaner work space, and two fewer reasons to have to crawl behind one's desk to check the connections at the back of the hard drive.
Another development, especially valuable for the small office, is the combination scanner - fax machine - photocopier - printer. Four space-gobbling pieces of electronic equipment are replaced with one, and this one combo has the added ability to fax, photocopy, or print directly from an electronic file contained on the computer's hard drive. Many combination printers also accept memory cards and other devices from digital cameras, allowing the printing or uploading of photographs for easy processing or for incorporation into an electronic text or image file.
Of course, a wide range of components are available with different features and widely varying prices. Flat-screen monitors can be fairly small - 15 inches --
to very large - 18 or 20 inches and over. The quality also varies; a simple screen which is used mainly for word processing can be relatively inexpensive, but screens which offer higher quality images increase in price, and are more appropriate for users working with graphics files or video images, tasks which require the ultimate in sharpness and finely tuned color balance. Wide-screen monitors offer the same aspect ratio as 35 mm film and are perfect for editing video clips and movies in a letter-box format. High-resolution HDTV and even plasma monitors offer the ultimate in image quality.
Multi-use capability isn't limited to small offices. Sophisticated photocopying machines can be connected to a computer network and can produce black and white or color copies of electronic files, with photographic quality, and can print and collate both single- and double-sided documents from any computer in the network. This capability allows printing jobs to stay in-house rather than being contracted to outside printing firms, and gives the document originators more control over the scheduling as well as the quality of the final product.
Another new technology is the use of both Internet and Intranet (in-house networks) technology, which is going wireless. While this presents some problems - most importantly the possibility of unwanted snooping by outsiders - it offers tremendous versatility, since computer users don't need to be plugged into a landline in order to access the network - again, more freedom, and one less wire to trip over!
The next thing on the horizon? Convergence! Already evident in our ability to download information from our PDAs and Blackberries to our desktop or laptop, we're looking at the interfacing of technology in a second wave of the communications revolution. In this new world we are already able to receive our telephone service, cable or satellite TV access, and Internet connection from one provider through coaxial cable and other methods. With the expansion of broadband and digital technology, we will soon be able to transfer electronic files containing amazing amounts of information, to computers anywhere in the world. This will usher in uses for the new technology that we can only guess at.
Aldene Fredenburg is a freelance writer living in southwestern New Hampshire. She has written numerous articles for local and regional newspapers and for a number of Internet websites, including Tips and Topics. She expresses her opinions periodically on her blog, http://beyondagendas.blogspot.com She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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