Computers have had a major impact on society due to a rapid increase in computer use. 25 years ago most computers were centralised, stored in locked rooms. In 1989 one in three persons aged three and above used a computer in the USA. In 1997 in USA 37% of households with children owned a computer and 56,416 people over 18 own a computer. (www.census.gov). Use has increased dramatically since 1997 with the majority of households now owning a personal computer.
There are positive and negative impacts which have resulted from an increase in technology and computer use. Computer technology nowadays is encountered almost everywhere at work, home, in finance, communication, education and retail. Therefore it affects various people including the elderly, poor children and businesses. I will assess the advantages and disadvantages of computers and predict the situation in ten years time.
Email is a very common use of a computer. Millions of emails are sent every day. It is a fast and efficient means of communicating. However face-to-face contact is obviously lost. “About 20% of the secretaries surveyed by the Diebold Group (1984) reported less face-to-face contact with their peers. 22% of the managers and professionals also reported a decrease in face-to-face contact.” (www.ccs.neu.edu). It can improve family and friend relationships and aid businesses. Better communication between employers and customers will exist coupled with a reduction in paperwork.
Businesses not only use the Internet but use databases e.g. for customer details. Encryption is used in the transmission of emails due to insecure networks. As computers are so common security is very important. “Encryption is spreading fast in business. The US Chamber of Commerce surveyed 1600 US business users and found that 17% of companies used encryption for confidentiality in 1995. They expect this figure to rise to 60% by the year 2000.” (www.viacorp.com). A public key verifies the receiver and the private key is used to encrypt and decrypt the message. Therefore it is intercepted the email is unreadable. Traditional email prevents the scanning of contents of letters however if email is not encrypted then it is possible to access the text. Encrypted email is more confidential than faxes as faxes are accessible by anyone passing a fax machine.
Access to information has increased dramatically. A vast amount of information is available on the Internet and is easily accessible due to the amount of computer use. Information on health care is now excellent on the World Wide Web. Home users can easily distinguish symptoms of certain illnesses and use the information as general guidance to certain conditions. Also there are medical notes which assist doctors greatly.
Education has benefited from increase in technology. Teachers and pupils enhance their work by using computers. The teachers can give good quality presentations using various programs. Pupils have access to masses amount of information. Major universities extensively use computers – some require students on certain courses to buy a computer.
Also student’s computers are used for entertainment. Games, music, chat, websites on many topics including news, hobbies, multiplayer gaming and other interests. Accessories can now be connected to personal computers to enhance the features e.g. digital cameras to store photos, mp3 player to listen to portable music. Computers will affect almost everyone and the technology will increase resulting in more and more new experiences and features. Pupils can work at their own pace or continue where they left off if they become ill. The information is always available and therefore it is easily accessed if extra learning is needed unlike traditional teaching.
E-commerce is very successful. It is now very easy to purchase goods on the Internet. Internet shopping is done in a secure environment using cryptography to make the credit card number unattainable apart from the intended receiver. The advantages for the users is that they do not have to leave their home therefore saving time and money from fuel consumption. This is especially useful for disabled people. Internet banking is a new service, which is now used by many major banks allowing access to your balance, list of transactions, and money can be transfered between accounts under the same bank. However this is probably not as secure as traditional banking. ????
Virtual conferences can be held to bring various companies together to overcome delegates having to travel long distance to meetings, thereby saving the company money. As a result of current technology, conferences can be held with high resolutions, sound and little delay. Businesses can send projects to various L.E.D.Cs (Less Economically Developed Countries) where computers are used as the wages are lower. (delete this doesn’t make sense?? ) Virtual reality is used to produce a simulation of a real world concept e.g. pilot training etc.
Computers are now used to predict natural occurrences and react in an appropriate way. Weather patterns can be predicted e.g. storms and floods. Evacuation procedures can then be undertook to save as many lives as possible.
These advantages cannot affect everyone. The poor cannot afford to buy computers and access the Internet. Residents in isolated areas cannot connect to the Internet economically. Disabilities may prevent people from being able to use computers.
Computers are not 100% secure. Accidental damage, natural hazards and viruses can affect them. Viruses are a major threat to all users. They can result in loss of all data stored which can be catastrophic to major firms, which can often go bankrupt, or just be a major inconvenience. To avoid this at least two backups are usually required.
There are negative impacts of computers in education because the teachers need to be taught how to use the computers, thousands of teachers will not have adequate computer knowledge. Training needs to be continued because of the constant change in technology. Computers used intensively in lessons at school for example means that individual pupil requirements are not met, the teachers have to spend time choosing the right software. Also monitoring of computer use is needed and assistance and troubleshooting is required.
Crime prevention has been made easier as there are better national and international records. Forces and countries can work together to catch the criminals. Imaging technology is now used as this provides a quick and cheap method of accessing digital images to be used as evidence and hopefully result in catching the criminals but originally not many people knew how to use this sophisticated technology. Therefore “To remedy this, Purdue University’s Schools of Science and Technology and Indiana University’s law and medical schools are working with Eastman Kodak, Rochester, N.Y., to create an Institute for Forensic Imaging that would develop new methodologies for applying imaging technology in law enforcement.
In addition to possibly publishing several how to books, experts would give the information to continuing education faculty who would then conduct training classes for law enforcement officials.” (http://www.clickit.com/touch/arg/crooks.htm). Computer systems are now used to store crime scene photographs, crime lab reports, videotape segments, witness statements, fingerprints, mug shots and audio of 911 calls. This can save the employees a lot of time and effort. One advantage for the police department for example is that a digital camera will save lots of time when processing fingerprint data. However viruses are an example of Internet crime. Another Internet crime is the illegal use of credit card transactions online e.g. interception.
Personal details are readily used for recognition on websites i.e. cookies. However these details are not very secure and can be accessed and then used for email spamming and other purposes. The Data Protection Act has rules, which limits the use of personal data i.e. kept for no longer than necessary.
I believe in the next 10 years that computer use will be even greater. Everything will be closely linked to a computer. Due to the increase in technology, communication will be improved e.g. conferencing software, will be better and faster than the current versions. Virtual reality worlds will be even more realistic with the equipment reduced in price and possibly smaller due to new manufacturing techniques. Voice connections at present have a delay and are of moderate quality, in the future this will be improved. Using dedicated IP networks and using packet switching will improve it. Video conferencing will be as easy as making a phone call. Even more businesses will be using computers in one way or another.