About 21st Century Tech and its Author

Len Rosen 2009-10-01

Hi. My name is Len Rosen. I’ve been studying and speculating about technology and science for as long as I can remember. One of my most treasured books, “The Boy Scientist” was given to me at age 8. Since then I have been studying, reading, observing and experimenting – turning over rocks, viewing the stars, and staying connected to this very exciting area of exploration. My business today is writing. I do this for new business start ups, for magazines, for online publications and for myself. Writing about science and technology is my passion.

I live in Toronto, Canada,  a great city if you’ve never been here. I have a wonderful life partner, my wife, a talented and vivacious daughter and a miniature red poodle who accompanies me on daily walks through our neighbourhood, and the fields near our home. I enjoy observing, exploring and learning about the world through my dog’s eyes as well as my own.

Why did I start writing 21st Century Technology in 2009? Born just at the half-century mark of the last century I couldn’t help but look back at the changes to the world since my birth. I remember our first television in the living room of our home in Montreal and our neighbours coming over on weeknights to watch programs. I remember the horse-drawn ice wagon that dropped ice blocks off for my grandmother every week because she still had an ice box while my parents had a brand new Frigidaire refrigerator. My father drove a “Ford Woody,” a station wagon with actual wooden panelling on its sides. He was often gone for weeks travelling to his customers who operated general stores in small towns throughout Ontario (west of Montreal). When we went on summer holidays we often drove to a cottage north of Montreal where oil lamps provided the lighting and propane the energy for cooking and heating. I always remember the outhouse out back and I was four at the time.

I think the first real memorable technological change that hit me was colour television. My parents didn’t have a colour television while I was living at home (until 1973). But we had a stereo hi-fi, and 3 black-and-white TVs scattered throughout the house. When I got married and moved away the first television I bought was still black-and-white and that was 1973.

I remember transistor radios showing up in the late 1950s but I didn’t own one until the 1960s. I bought my first portable calculator (a TI model) in 1974. It could add, subtract, multiply, divide and do square roots. It cost over $200 at that time, a small fortune.

NASA made technology cool in the 1960s and the products that came from space exploration really accelerated the pace of change. By 1979 I was building my first computer kit and teaching myself how to program in BASIC. I soon found myself mastering software applications running on my CP/M-based machine with its 64K of RAM and two 8″ floppy disk drives, drive A for applications and drive B for data. I mastered Visicalc and WordStar in short order and then when the IBM PC came out quickly moved into the world of DOS, Easywriter and a whole bunch of new application tools.

I remember my first fax machine at my company’s office. It was called a QWIP. It replaced the Telex machine. We would type a document and print it on special paper that was attached to a drum that scanned one line at a time. The QWIP had an acoustic coupler for transmission over telephone lines. It smelled like rotten cinammon every time we ran it so eventually we put it in a cupboard in the warehouse at the back of our office. Even from there you could smell it.

We weren’t aware of CO2 emissions back in the 1970s but were certainly familiar with smog. Climate change was still not mainstream. In the 60s and 70s we were consumed by the War in Vietnam, the ongoing Cold War, the OPEC oil embargoand the change it brought to our perception about energy availability. We were consumed by the Middle East saga between Israel and the Palestinians and other Arab neighbours, just as we are today. The Doomsday Clock was occasionally mentioned as was the ticking time bomb of population growth.

I became a father in the 1980s to a daughter who benefited from the medical technology of the age, surviving through many bouts of pneumonia and heart failure because of technological advances. We had a portable heart monitor that recorded her rhythmn and could be transmitted through an acoustic device over the phone to the hospital for interpretation. My daughter was linked to her classroom through an educational network that allowed her to converse with classmates and teachers using an early form of chat.

My first cell phone was a car-installed $2,000 investment that allowed me to keep in touch with my wife during my work day just in case my daughter needed to be rushed to the hospital. That was 1985. What a big investment for technology that often cut out and had limited range outside of the city of Toronto where we now lived.

It’s 26 years now since that cell phone purchase, and 32 years from the time I assembled and soldered together my first home computer. Technology has changed our world. We are more aware of what is going on 12,000 miles away today than we are about what is happening on our own street. We are always on and always connected through an elaborate infrastructure of servers and telecommunications devices. My desk has two screens and a computer that has processing and storage capability a million times or more greater than the first assembled kit I put together in 1979. I throw away calculators when the solar cells no longer work. My cell phone gets tossed every time I renew a plan with my carrier. That stereo hi-fi my parents were so proud of has been replaced by devices the size of business cards and almost as thin capable of holding my entire vinyl collection, CDs and downloads. I read books on my Kobo e-reader Samsung Galaxy tablet and am wondering what to do with the 6,000 books on the shelves in my home when we finally downsize.

When I was born the world had around 3 billion people. In late 2011 we surpassed 7 billion living on the planet, most of them born in the Developing World, not in my neck of the woods. Gasoline that was 14 cents a gallon when I was a toddler sells for $1.27 a liter (close to $5 a gallon) at my local station. I telecommute more than drive to do business. I bank online. I pay my bills that way as well. The only time I write a cheque seems to be when I’m doing renovations on our house. I receive high-definition TV signals from a satellite dish, my Internet access over a high-speed DSL line and I have five computers in the house, one for composing music, a netbook, two laptops and my super-powered desktop. Add the tablet to that and it makes six.

When I was born CO2 levels in the atmosphere stood at 311 ppm. Today we are at 392. I know this is significant and I know that it’s something to pay attention to.

For all these reasons I write about technology and invite you to join in the conversation. You may find what I write about to of interest and a stimulant for your own interest in technology in this 21st century. Or you may have an interest in a particular area of technology and science that can add value to this blog. Please let me know if I’m missing a subject.

My intention is to convert the content of this blog into one or more books, probably e-books because I’m not sure many traditional publishers will be around much longer. To prove my point I recently read that Amazon is planning to bypass traditional publishers, offering to publish books by going directly to authors. My oh my, how technology is changing our lives and the world around us. What a ride!