Technology Literacy: A World Full of Technology Myths

What does it really mean to be technologically with it? Does it mean having a counterargument any time anyone has an opinion on what Facebook means for society? Does it mean that you need to know exactly what kind of display or printer technology saves you more money? The whole technology literacy question of knowing what exactly constitutes right and wrong and knowing good from bad tends to make some people really nervous. And for good reason. Those who believe that they know right from wrong unfortunately aren’t always headed down the right path. Perhaps this little primer will settle a few sticky questions you might have.

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Let’s start with a particularly stubborn myth that challenges our best technology literacy attempts -using your mobile phone on an airplane. Would you believe that the ban by the FCC in 2007 came about not because they felt that your cell phone would endanger the safety of a flight, but because when flying above a city, you’re likely to be within reach of the cell phone signals coming from hundreds of towers at the same time on the ground. Your cell phone would try to lock in into all of them and cause them to waste bandwidth over a call that is never going to successfully get completed.

People imagine though (and airline crews help them in that) that turning their cell phones on mid flight will interfere with airplanes’ electronics and avionics and cause it to crash. There’s just one way to put an end to this particular myth -at least two airlines, Air France and Royal Jordanian- allow you to use your cell phone at any and every stage of any flight.

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Moving on to an area where technology myths seem particularly stubborn to attempts at removal, consider how people feel that if they don’t defragment their drives, their computers will slow down. This particular piece of advice used to make quite a bit of sense at one time -when hard drives came in at under 10 GB. The computer needed to make use of every scrap of space available and would write its data anywhere that it could. With most hard drives made to hold hundreds of gigabytes these days, computers don’t need to do save space that fanatically anymore. Defragmenting your hard drive isn’t really going to give you performance that’s any better these days. And certainly, if you have a solid-state drive of the kind the Mac Air uses, defragmenting is an irrelevant thing.

And finally, with as much effort as people put into gaining a little technology literacy, there is something about staying safe on the Internet that seems to belie all these attempts. For instance, did you ever have anyone tell you to switch to Firefox because it was a safer browser than Internet Explorer? The US government’s United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team doesn’t seem to think so. As far as they are concerned, Internet Explorer is the safest browser in the world – it only has 17 known vulnerabilities. And Chrome has more than twice as many. And do you believe that staying away from porn helps you keep your computer squeaky clean? Not always. There are all kinds of regular websites that are reported to be way more dangerous than anything that smut has been known for.

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