Geoffrey Orsak’s top 10 “can’t live without” technologies

Geoffrey Orsak

 Geoffrey C. Orsak

Who doesn’t love a top 10 list? And with the power of a pen, I can have my very own. Given that this is a summer issue, consider this a beach blanket game with no real rules. Here are my 10 technologies I just couldn’t live without. Think they are lame? Then let’s hear some of yours.

10. CELL PHONE CAMERA: At first these were hardly better than a pinhole in a shoebox. Now, phone cameras are so good that my phone is my camera. You will never be at a loss at a baseball game or after an unfortunate fenderbender. And with these convenient devices, we are all paparazzi.

9. NOISE CANCELLING HEADPHONES: What a twist— technology originally designed to produce sound now creates “anti” sound. On a recent flight from DFW to Orlando, this little baby saved me from a three-hour debate on health care reform on aisle 19. Priceless.

8. AIR CONDITIONING: Obvious, yes, but it is summer. AC has meant more to the southern migration of Americans than the interstate highway system. Don’t love your AC? Try walking in from a hot parking lot into a cool dry home — now that’s a beautiful experience. As a Dallas resident, I pay homage to the evaporation cycle daily.

7. PILL CAMERA: Brimming with endless junior high humor, this technology is a minor work of genius. Never “used” one? For anyone facing the alternative of a colonoscopy, all I can say is “smile, you’re on candid camera!”

6. SATELLITE RADIO: Lame DJs, contests, endless promotions — that was the radio we grew up loving. Now, from 35,000 kilometers in the sky, I get my pure jazz without a single ad for monster truck races. No more morning zoo — just crystal-clear music.

5. AUTOMOBILE PARKING SENSORS: Now this is technology I can really use. Combined with my “backup” camera, I am flight-instrument- rated to reverse into my very tight garage. The auto body repair shop lobby must be crying in their coffee over this innovation.

4. GPS DYNAMIC MAPPING FOR MY CAR: This is a family’s dream come true, preventing countless marital fights in the front seat over stopping for directions. It took sending a man to the moon to pull this one off, but it was definitely worth the effort. Look for divorce rates to drop in the coming years.

3. MAGNETIC STRIPE CARD: Forget checks, forget cash and forget positive net worth. Now that I get miles on my credit card, cash is so, like, 20th Century. Yes, these little plastic bombs nearly brought down the western economy like a rogue financial virus, but they aren’t going anywhere soon.

2. GOOGLE: Do I have to explain this? Google is my Internet. I haven’t bothered to walk through a library in years. It is so transformative that Google has become both a noun and a verb. I challenge other technologies to pull that off.

1. UNIVERSAL REMOTE CONTROL: This is pure power, however imaginary, all from the comfort of the couch. As a late night sports addict, I couldn’t live without my remote. I love the remote. I am the remote. With my remote control and TiVo®, the ancient television is instantlytransformed into the true, interactive multimedia device we engineers have always dreamed of.

Geoffrey C. Orsak is dean of the Southern Methodist University Lyle School of Engineering. He can be reached at dean@lyle.smu.edu.