Back in the 1970s I had a friend who worked at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. He was some kind of computer guru. He had top secret security clearance. He wouldn’t discuss his work other than to tell me that he could see a battle field from any angle including from the vantage point of the enemy. It was the spy vs. spy of the cold war.
I recently served as a substitute teacher for Jana Schmidt at LBJ High School in Johnson City. She teaches Architecture and Engineering including Computer Aided Design. I don’t think I have ever met her in person but I learned some things about her just being in her classroom. She runs a tight ship. I was impressed.
Her students were preparing for semester exams that, to me, involved some pretty complex engineering skills. They were using computers to produce a variety of graphics, such things as automobiles that could be turned this way and that on the computer screen so they could be seen from a variety of perspectives.
When I considered what they were doing with such apparent ease, I couldn’t help but think of my friend who worked at the cutting edge of the technology of his time. These high school students were doing on their desktop computers what it took a roomful of computers to do in his day.
In fact, the young people of today are using technology in the computer games they play that is more sophisticated than that used by the United States military just a few short years ago.
When I visited NASA in Florida I marveled at the huge multi-story Saturn V rocket on display similar to the one that took the first U.S. Astronauts to the moon. It continues to amaze me that we were able to accomplish such a magnificent feat with 1960s technology. No accomplishment of man in all of human history can compare to it.
We had broken the surly bonds of earth and had dared to defy the laws of gravity—and even to put them to work for us—so that mankind could pay a visit to another celestial orb!
The night that Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, I was doing research in Momostenango, a remote Indian village in Guatemala. I tried to explain to a native woman that men were about to walk on the moon and I pointed to it in the clear night sky.
She looked at me, searching to see if she could find the source of the madness that surely must lurk inside me. An American missionary sought me out to ask what it was that I had told the woman. “She thinks you are one crazy gringo,” he said.
“Her world extends only from this village to Quetzaltenango. Anything beyond that is outside her realm of understanding.” Certainly the moon was far beyond the bounds of her limited world. In fact, a manned moon landing was incomprehensible to me then and it continues to be incomprehensible to me now.
When my father died this year at age 98, the course of his life had taken him from horse-drawn wagons to international space stations; from pulling on the reins to cruise control; from vacuum tube radios to satellite receivers; from the penny postcard to email.
Louis L’Amour said, “No man cuts himself free of old ties without regret; even scenes of hardship and sadness possess the warmth of familiarity, and within each of us there is a love for the known.” (Lando)
Technology and change have become part and parcel of our daily lives. I suppose we have to keep up with them in order to deal effectively with the times in which we live, just as my father had to deal with the rugged, harsh realities of his early life.
As much as some of us old-timers might resist it, change is taking place in our world at an ever-increasing rate and it will inevitably continue to do so. We have to accept that fact.
However, it is my hope and prayer that our sense of right and wrong, of propriety, of the value of human life, of our right to choose, and our ability to discern good from evil will keep pace with our technological advances.
Our continued existence as free men and women depends on it.
*(Louis L’Amour, The Walking Drum)