Don Burks, Head Instructor legend at Lighthouse Labs Vancouver, has lots to say about the world we live in and how technology influences so many aspects of it. Don has been coding since the dawn of time (well, the dawn of the Commodore 64), and is as passionate about teaching as he is technology, and our tech world.
Since Lighthouse Labs opened their doors in October of 2013, we have seen the number of people coming to us and expressing a desire to get into technology increase. Our staff are often asked why someone should get involved, asked whether it is worth investing the time and the money into a technical education. Universally, we say yes. And when pressed to explain our conviction, we simply have to direct attention to the world in which we live.
Our world is a technological world
Peter Sondergaard, Executive Vice President of the world-renowned Gartner research firm, was famously quoted in 2013 as saying, "Every company is a technology company." This sentiment seems like a bold statement until you start to inspect it in a bit more depth. Even the most manual jobs are touched by some degree of technology. It is worth exploring how technology touches our lives as a vehicle for bringing about a deeper and more thorough understanding of the value of technical training, digital literacy, and fluency with the types of problem-solving skills that are needed to work with computers.
How often do you find yourself using paper maps these days? Infrequently, if at all, is the most common answer. Most navigation is done using either a GPS device or the mapping application on your smartphone. When was the last time you used a Rolodex™ to look up someone's phone number, or used a fax as the primary method of communication with a company? Contact apps and e-mail have overtaken these older, more manual technologies.
Technology and transportation
Truckers and delivery drivers also rely on that same GPS technology, as do airlines, taxis, and trains. Touch-screen technology is everywhere, from your phone to the grocery store self-checkout, and even at the kiosk in McDonald's where you can order your burger and fries from an interactive menu, and pay for it right there. We have gotten ever better about synchronizing data, such that files you put into cloud storage providers such as Dropbox™, Google Drive™, or Amazon Drive™ can be shared with people and companies all over the world, instantly.
Companies on every continent are relying on this ubiquity of information to be able to manage their business. Real-time collaboration on documents is a standard part of business process, with distributed teams working in tandem on proposals from all corners of the globe. Even a neighbourhood medical clinic is going to rely on multiple software systems to manage patients and provide the medical care nearby residents need. At a minimum, that clinic is going to need appointment scheduling software, patient management software, e-mail, word processing, contact management, and cloud storage, in addition to any specific software necessary to run any of the specialized instruments in the clinic.
An airline such as Air Canada™ can easily have over a hundred different software systems in use at any given time, managing everything from the bookings and check-ins of passengers to the payroll and schedule of its employees. As well, the maintenance of the planes, tracking of baggage, and ordering of blankets and earbuds that each and every passenger will use in their travels has to be tracked, paid for, and updated. And each vendor such as food services and refueling will have multiple software systems that they depend on, above and beyond the airline's usage. When you fly, it's not just air that is under the wings of that plane. There are millions of lines of code.
Technology even affects your morning coffee
As a last example, let's look at your favourite coffee shop. There's easily a million lines of code that put that latte into your hands. There is the point-of-sale system that took your order and processed your payment. There is the payroll software that is tracking the hours of the barista that took your order. There is the branch management software the manager uses to keep track of staffing and costs. There is the inventory system that made sure the beans, the cups, the lids, and the sleeves were there for you. Some coffee shops even have their coffee makers connected to the internet, so that their maintenance schedule can be monitored from a central headquarters location.
Our economy is a tech-based economy, bringing innovation and efficiency to every industry. Computers are even used to re-design hammers, so that they can be used with less effort by carpenters. Given the consistency and depth of tech's presence in our everyday lives, why wouldn't you invest the time and energy into understanding the possibilities that coding and technical fluency can bring?