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Opinion Digital ADD on the rise

George HasaraThe first TV remote control back in 1950 was named "Lazy Bones." That should have been a tip-off of things to come. Flipping between test patterns on a small black and white television, would eventually lead to easier access to all kinds of information.

Another invention that rivals the significance of “Lazy Bones” is the pocket or hand-held calculator that came onto the scene in the early 1970s. Prior to that, the portable device for computing was the slide rule, but that took too much brain power just to figure out how it worked. With a calculator, one doesn't need math skills. To figure out the sum of one times one, just mash some buttons.

Every age, in its own right could (at the time) be considered the “information age.” The difference today, is the quickness and ease information can be retrieved. Knowledge or the facsimile thereof, is both figuratively and literally at one's fingertips which opens the door for binge data consumption. It's not unlike overeating. Instead of peanut-covered M&Ms in a dish on a coffee table, it's a mobile device in your hand, or a computer on a desk with high-speed internet access. You can't just eat one piece of digital candy.

A few years ago in casual conversation, my friend John asked if singer Lena Horne was still alive. I didn't know, and it hadn't even crossed my mind. But, since I COULD know – I HAD to know. A quick search of the internet confirmed that she was still alive and the void in my knowledge appetite was then filled. A few days later, Horne died at 92. Since then, John and I avoid the “I wonder if they are still alive?” question.

In ancient times, like in the 1980's, if someone wanted the answer to the Lena Horne question, it might prove difficult and time consuming. A trip to the library and a consultation with a librarian could be necessary. It could take a while to track down Horne's agent or publicist's phone number. And, if you did come up with a number, what would you say? “I'm calling because I'm curious if Ms. Horne is still alive. Hello, hello, are you there?”

People back in the ’80s didn't have the Internet and had to rely on great TV shows like “The A-Team” and “The Dukes of Hazzard” for mental stimulation. However, something they did have in that decade would prove to be the driving force behind 112 percent of all Internet searches. No, not pornography, but the board game, Trivial Pursuit. The game moved the domain of useless information from geek to hip. In a couple of decades, the pursuit of trivia evolved into a national obsession.

Trivia is cool but has an odd disjointed nature to it - free floating bits of information that are not necessarily connected to anything else. One can know that Tirana is the capital of Albania without being able to find Albania on the globe. But, then again, that's what we have Google Maps for.

With our entire human knowledge base on speed dial, it seems we that we have developed a type of digital attention deficiency disorder. For myself, the antidote is simply to pull away from the screen, get off my duff, and don't be a lazy bones.


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