I saw on the news that the world could soon be experiencing a laptop shortage thanks to the floods in Thailand last fall. Turns out this small SE Asian country represents 25% of the global laptop computer manufacturing industry. No problemo, I’ve got a few and no plans on buying a new laptop within the next several months. But for someone in need of a new computer, that shortage could be disastrous. Life as we know it these days requires connectivity.

I’m not a panic kind of person. You can throw just about any stumbling block in my path and I’ll deal with it rationally and calmly. So booting up my notebook the day I was to leave for my most recent overseas trip only to discover my web browser wasn’t working was not the end of the world it could have been. I didn’t panic. I just packed one of my back-up laptops instead, dreading the fact I’d be forced to travel with a five pound piece of technology. The horror.

But I came close to a state of panic when I booted up my back-up at the airport only to find the wireless was on the fritz. I used the computer in the airline’s lounge to Google a fix and found out that particular model of HP is known for having a problematic wireless card, and all the suggested fixes really wouldn’t solve the problem. Even HP agreed the only answer was a new motherboard. Nice. Not only would I spend almost 20 hours of not being connected to the world, the first thing I’d have to do when I landed in Bangkok would be to dodge the gang of porn DVD sellers at Pantip Plaza and find a vendor who wouldn’t rape me over the cost of installing a new motherboard. I spent the next five hours considering just how irresponsible it would be of me to trash my computer and buy a new one in Bangkok instead.

Several people who had the same problem with their HP reported success by buying an external wireless card, bypassing the card in the computer. HP’s official word was that would not work. That instead you should purchase a full motherboard from them didn’t lead me to exactly trust their recommendation, so after checking in at my hotel I headed to the Power Buy branch in the Robinson connected to my hotel. And actually found a Thai salesperson who knew something about the product he was selling. His geekness trumped his Thai-ness. Not only did he know and understand my problem and how I thought I’d fix it, he went one better and suggested I try a USB wireless adapter. Which cost a whopping 490 baht (about $16).

The gadget, something I’d never heard of, was smaller than the size of your thumb nail. Size counts in my world and I didn’t have much faith that such a small of a piece of technology would fix what seemed to be a very large problem. But the clerk felt it would and agreed I could return it if it didn’t do the job. Being allowed to return something you buy in Thailand is a pretty big deal. Big enough to make up for the small sized fix. And I’ll be damned if that little sucker didn’t do the job. With only a few minutes of playing around to get it to work. Amazing Thailand indeed.

Had I not been able to find a solution to my problem I would have solved it by buying a new computer. The idea of spending almost a month travelling without, just wouldn’t have been acceptable. It’s not just the connectivity issue, but business too. Not to mention hook-ups. Technology has changed our lives. Without being connected to the world, we can no longer survive.

The need to be connected is a given these days. The girl at the hotel’s reception desk no longer asks if you need internet access when you check in. At any hotel in the world. A user name and password is slipped across the registration counter without thought. And if you really need it, you’ll get a key to your room too. But lets keep priorities straight.

I had trouble getting access at my hotel in Laos, and remembering the front desk clerk had said there was a computer available for use at the restaurant, which was close to my room, I took my laptop over there to see if the signal would be better. It wasn’t. But the hotel’s resident geek responded quickly to the problem, came up with an encryption key that needed to be added for the connection to go through, and all was right with my world again. Geeks were once a source of derision. Now they rule the world. They still might not get laid often, but the last thing anyone ever wants to do these days is piss off the geek who stands between you and being connected to the rest of your world.

I was on the BTS, obviously nowhere near rush hour since I had a seat and a clear view of a line of local women sitting across from me. They were all in their early twenties to late thirties. And all but one of the seven had a cell phone cradled reverently in their hands, plugged in, and totally involved in their own little world. The hold out had an iPad booted up instead. It wasn’t that many years ago that a cell phone was a status symbol for bar boys. Having one mounted to your hip was the thing. Even if it wasn’t connected to a service provider. Now any bar boy whose phone isn’t the latest and greatest is shamed; if you don’t have the newest iPhone you obviously have not learned how to help your farang have a big heart.

Telephone technology has come a long way baby. When I was a youngster, our phone was a heavy bakelite thing with a rotary dial. And we had a party line because that’s what you got in those days. (A party line meant while you had your own phone number, there were several other people who shared your line. So when you picked the handset up to use the phone you had to listen first to make sure one of your neighbors wasn’t using the phone.) My folks drummed our phone number into our little heads, in case we got lost someday. They never were that lucky, but I still remember that number. Though in those days for some reason phone numbers started with letters.

When cell phones first came out they were humongous affairs. Big and bulky with terrible reception, you paid through the nose to have service for a mobile phone. Reception can still be a problem, but the size of cell phones has shrunk while their capabilities have increased. Everyone on the planet has a cell phone these days, and between texting, picture taking, web browsing, email, and all the cool things you can do with apps, the one thing no one seems to do with a phone anymore is talk on them.

Considering how quickly the technology of phones has advanced, you have to wonder what phones will look like ten years from now. Undoubtedly we’ll be laughing at those cumbersome useless things we used back in 2012. I’d have to assume the future holds some sort of connectiveness that doesn’t require anything more than a chip. Possibly embedded under your skin. If that picture was not quite so fuzzy, I’d be investing in the technology now and in ten years could hire Bill Gates to shine my shoes.

It seems to me that since computers and cell phones keep getting smaller and more powerful at the same time, and with cloud computing being the wave of the future, the need for an actual piece of hardware should become a thing of the past. Since everything will be ‘up there’ where man once looked to the gods for answers, there will be no reason to have a personal device for connectivity; you’ll just pull what you need when you need it out of the air.

Recently, through a licensing partnership with Nokia, Vuzix announced its plans to develop a stylish head-mounted display solution in the form of Smart Glasses, which would integrate a bright, high-contrast display with a pair of seemingly ordinary-looking sunglasses that would be used as a web-connected device, letting you watch videos or browse the internet while still being able to see-and-avoid pedestrians as you walk on the sidewalk or obstacles while behind the wheel. So hands-free computing and voice recognition software is where we are headed, Siri should be the tip-off for the latter. Our technological advances in connectivity have all been about doing more with less, voice and visulas appear to be the wave of the future.

Or so you’d think. But then texting would seem to be an abomination. It’s a step backward that the masses have embraced. We’ve gone from using voice technology, the phone, to typing out our communications. Instant communication seems to be the key with texting, but that really depends on how quickly you can move your thumbs. That whole opposable thumbs thing finally is making sense. Most texts, however, do not. In our never ending quest for faster and quicker communication, spelling and grammar have taken a back seat. Not that that is a bad thing. Trying to remember if it should be ‘who’ or ‘whom’ is an internal debate of the past when now a simple ‘?’ will suffice.

Sexting is an even worse use of technology considering that it is the one time that hands-free communication makes the most sense. Phone sex was always difficult to pull off with any aplomb. Except for the truly talented, it always comes off sounding like bad porn dialogue (or is that phrase an oxymoron?). But at least with phone sex you could always rely on a few well placed groans. A sexted moan of pleasure just doesn’t cut it. Our technological advances should be serving us better than that. The information highway is most often used to answer the age-old question of, “How big is your dick?” A picture is worth a thousand words; visuals then, not text, is the way to go. Even when it means the end to your political career.

We’ve gone from the Pony Express to Facebook, from waiting weeks to hear if the rest of the world still existed to the seconds it takes for your favorite piece of hardware to power up. The ease with which we can become connected these days makes up for the false promise of a paperless world thanks to the advent of the personal computer. Tomorrow’s technology will be even more awesome. What we do with that technology, not the technology itself is what matters. We are more connected today, thanks to email, texting, cell phones, and social media, and at the same time draw further away from interpersonal, face to face communication. I’d like to say we took the wrong path at some recent point, that by using today’s technology in the manner we do we’ve actually grown further apart, not closer. But then there’s Grindr . . . so maybe our advances in connectivity isn’t really a bad thing after all.