A looking glass into the digital world

You may recall the WBVO issue where I compared smartphones to chameleons, saying, “I consider smartphones to be the 'chameleons of the digital world' because their utility can be adapted for any situation, much as a chameleon changes colors to blend with its environment.”

While helping my friend pick a replacement mobile phone recently, that chameleon analogy was not working for him. Thinking on my feet as he complained about the lack of flip phone choices, I explained to him that smartphones are like Swiss Army knives, with “apps” being analogous to the various tools a Swiss Army knife holds … that was an analogy he understood right away (maybe being a Boy Scout five decades ago helped him too).

As I was setting up his smartphone in their kitchen, my friend’s wife asked me what a “web browser” is. I told her that a web browser is akin to one’s “looking glass” into the digital world,  aka the internet.

She looked perplexed and I was up for the challenge to demystify browsers for her. My passion, and one of the purposes of this column, is to bring down the intimidation barrier so people, especially seniors, can embrace appropriate level of technology to enrich their lives in a world where technology has permeated into every nook and cranny of our lives.

Different apps on your smartphone make your phone “smart” by turning a phone into many useful tools with a single tap of a finger on the app’s icon on the screen. Pretty intuitive and it demonstrates what I call the "power of one" as you navigate using one-finger taps.

Setting aside the power-of-one utility in smartphones and tablets, there is an ubiquitous tool that can be used on any device, whether it is a computer/tablet/smartphone or theoretically anything, that is powered by electricity. It can singlehandedly access different services in the digital world without the need for customized apps. That tool is the browser.

Companies, from news outlets like CNN to online stores like Amazon, have websites you can peruse using a web browser (or just “browser” for short). Websites are akin to newsstands, storefronts and business cards in the digital world. Using a browser we can search for information, get our emails, pay bills online from our bank accounts, read up-to-date news, enjoy various forms of entertainment, and a whole lot more.

My prediction is that browsers will continue to be integrated into everything imaginable. Today, when our son asks about the weather while getting ready for school, my wife reaches for her smartphone. In the near future, she might be checking the weather through the browser on our refrigerator while getting the milk for his breakfast cereals. In retrospect maybe the title of this article should have been plural as both browsers and apps act as looking glasses into the what the digital world has to offer!

Tak Sato

Business and technology strategist/consultant with 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and MBA from Cleveland State University.

As founder of geek with a heart, "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps Individuals, Seniors, Families, Small Businesses, Schools, and Non-Profits utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 7, Issue 20, Posted 10:00 AM, 10.20.2015