You can see things happening, live, in colour, on the other side of the world.
You can attend conferences and meetings that are days away from here.
You can send and receive all kinds of information in the blink of an eye (and no more nasty papercuts from licking envelopes).
You can 'chat', live, to friends or family far away, or to people you would never otherwise meet.
You can share interests on specific mailing lists or newsgroups.
You can buy and sell internationally, advertise your business on the Web, you can send and receive new software, photographs, that vital document.
It's a wonderful freedom.
A lot of boundaries and limitations have been swept away by this growth in technology, just as they were by other advances in travel: the ship, the train, the car, the aeroplane.
You can go (with respect to Star Trek) where you haven't been before.
No nasty injections before you leave.
No problems with passports, delays at customs, tummy trouble with food and water you're not used to.
People at their best will need help, need to ask questions and will often make mistakes.
People at their worst will need definite limits on what they do, so they don't harm anyone else.
Machines at their best will need careful checking and maintenance, will encounter problems and may not work at all under certain conditions.
Machines at their worst need to be 'debugged', 'reconfigured', 'upgraded'; they simply don't work until these things are done.
You may have bought a 'faster processor/CPU' to run programs with lots of pictures, especially moving pictures.
You have probably bought a CD-ROM drive so you can buy those very large programs with lots of information or moving pictures (for example, encyclopedias or 'live' games).
You, like everyone else, are finding out that there is always some new idea or gadget around the next corner, and you may be feeling confused or pressured at the amount of change which keeps taking place in any area that uses computers.
You could spend all your time, study full-time to try and 'catch up' with 'what's happening with computers' and in five years, maybe even two years or twelve months, it would all be out of date.
Nobody can possibly know all that is happening.
Nobody needs to feel a 'computer cringe' because he or she doesn't understand a particular machine or piece of jargon.
All you need and want to know is what is relevant to your life.
So, just as you yourself learnt, and attempt to teach your kids: you don't leave the fridge door open.
It won't cool, it won't work, there will be complaints and cost.
Now I think of it, fridges close automatically these days.
And that is just what is happening with computers:
...as something becomes an obvious problem in everyday life, somebody will design a solution if possible.
A lot of the changes in computing have made computers easier to use.
Just as the fridge door mostly closes itself nowadays, computers have a lot of Help information and you can point-and-click with a mouse rather than having to learn a programming language and type instructions in.
There are tutorials on your computer.
There are programs designed to help you learn and understand.
My printer even shows pictures on my computer screen, for example, to show me how much ink I have left.
I used to have to look inside the printer and hope I wasn't breaking anything, nevermind the dirty fingers.
You can make your computer a useful, convenient and even enjoyable part of your life.
next article: Computer fitness