Two Longs and a Short

August 24, 2012 07:00 PM
Two Longs and a Short

Technology changes fast, but we can keep up together

When my mother was seven years old, her phone number was simply "two longs and a short." She was on a party line in rural Missouri in the 1950s, and when that pattern rang, she knew the call was for her family.

When I was seven, in the mid-1980s, my family bought a Hewlett-Packard computer with a 16-color monitor, 5¼" floppy disk drive and 1 MB hard drive. My father later observed, "We thought we would never fill up a hard drive that big."

My daughter turns seven this year. She doesn’t know what party lines are. She doesn’t know what floppy disks are. But she knows plenty about smartphones, tablets and the Internet.

Technology moves pretty fast. That’s not a problem in and of itself. The problem is keeping up.
"Technology can be intimidating without the right perspective," admits Will Cannon, Ag Leader Technology product specialist. "There’s always a learning curve."

Cannon suggests there is a paradox at play with new farming technologies. "In some ways, it’s easier because the products are more refined, and it’s easy to pull them out of the box and plug and play," he says. "At the same time, it’s harder to know where to start—there are so many options."

This situation is hardly new. In 1970, futurist Alvin Toffler coined the term "future shock," which he defined as "too much change in too short a period of time."

"With future shock you stay in one place, but your own culture changes so rapidly that it has the same disorienting effect as going to another culture," Toffler says.

We at Farm Journal don’t want you to stay in one place while the world moves around you. To that end, we have developed the Technology on the Move series, which you’ll see in Farm Journal, Top Producer and on AgWeb in the months to come. The series will offer a wide sampling of mobile and digital tools that can help you become a better farmer and businessperson.

Technology is a tricky subject, especially when there is such a range in people’s levels of comfort and expertise. The danger is talking about technology in a way that confuses the beginners and bores the experts. With that in mind, we will make sure to acknowledge three basic types of farmers when discussing any given technology:

1. "I didn’t even know this technology existed." For this group, we want to give enough baseline information so that it’s at least on their radar.

2. "I know about this technology, but I don’t use it." We want to arm this group with enough information for them to make an informed decision about whether or not to try it.

3 "I already use this technology." There’s always room for improvement. There are people who own a top-of-the-line computer and only use it to play solitaire. Likewise, there are farmers who use some really sophisticated technology at a fraction of its potential.

In the coming issues, we will highlight the top farming apps; the best mobile tools for scouting; the top apps developed for consumers but that are also useful on the farm; and more.

In short, we’re going to take a closer, more deliberate look at the newest farm technology available. We’ll explore the cost of these technologies, too.

Let’s get a move on.

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