Ah, technology: the reason we are able to communicate with a wide audience of people anywhere in the world ... but also the reason we were not able to communicate with a wide audience of people when we wanted to last night or this morning.
That's the whole quandary of the times right there, isn't it? Technology makes our lives infinitely easier -- until it doesn't work, at which point it turns us into helpless, irrational puddles. At least, of course, until a different form of technology saves the day.
Last night, for instance, we joined the ceremonial Stephen A. Smith club. After arriving at a high school football game to write a column, we discovered that the laptop that had been working beautifully just 30 minutes earlier was now basically shot. We're not talking about an inability to connect to a network in order to send a story back to the office. We're talking about not even being able to get a login screen to come up. We tried various troubleshooting methods, most of which consisted of unrealistic hope (restarting the laptop over and over again), practical but fruitless calls for help (back to the Star Tribune IT department) and desperation (taking the battery out and putting it back in ... as if that was the magic solution).
As the game reached halftime (after a not particularly swift first half, but one that at least produced a lopsided score and a clear story angle), we did what any reasonable person in 2009 might do: we began composing a 500-word column on our Blackberry. We are somewhat proud to say that we made our 10 p.m. deadline on a game that ended after 9; we were a little disturbed to learn just how fast we can type on a Blackberry, and that the story didn't read any different than if we would have had full laptop capabilities.
The broken laptop was a loaner for previous laptop, which caught a nasty virus last week. The old one is now back in service, restoring the miracle of communication. But we couldn't do a thing from home this morning. It busted up the entire routine and made us feel, frankly, pretty antsy. We hate thinking of the first post of the day having to wait past a commute, a morning meeting and other obligations. It's remarkable that something we wouldn't have even considered possible during one part of our working life is now taken for granted to the point that we can't function with out it. But think about going a week without a cell phone, e-mail, or the Internet. Consider how much of your life now depends on what we now think of as fairly basic and fundamental technology.
How long could you "survive" without the "basics?"