8 Technologies We're Thankful For - InformationWeek

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8 Technologies We're Thankful For

Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, remember? So, let's express appreciation for the technologies that make our lives better. These are the gadgets, apps, and tools that have earned our eternal gratitude.
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(Image: Sadeugra/iStockphoto)

(Image: Sadeugra/iStockphoto)

It's easy to imagine that the upcoming holiday weekend is about coping with turkeys (metaphorical or otherwise), cheering a football team, finding the best Black Friday sale, or avoiding giving your family free technical support.

But remember: Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day when we openly appreciate all that we have. Ideally, each of us has plenty of personal joys to celebrate. I hope your own list is a long one.

What's not to like about the idea of dedicating a day wherein the purpose is to remind us to be thankful? That sentiment isn't applicable only to the people (and cats) in our lives. It's about everything that helps us become comfortable, productive (or cheerfully unproductive), and spiritually balanced. Because technology often can improve the quality of life, it's worthwhile to take a few moments to give thanks for some of those technologies, too.

[It's not wasting time if we're having fun. Read 10 Mobile Games To Ease Your Commute.]

Some of these items are so commonplace, you probably use them every day and don't even think twice about how much they've transformed your life. Others might not fall under your definition of "technology," though these products certainly have a significant amount of technology required to make them possible -- and indispensable -- to our everyday lives.

This list is unabashedly personal, but I expect you can relate to several of these items. Add your own favorites in the comments section below, and together we can expand our range of "things to appreciate."

Esther Schindler has been writing for the tech press since 1992. She specializes in translating from Geek into English. Her name is on the cover of about a dozen books, most recently The Complete Idiot's Guide to Twitter Marketing. Esther quilts (with enthusiasm if little ... View Full Bio

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nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
11/25/2015 | 8:59:00 AM
Word wrap!
@Esther: The word wrap story is hilarious. I'm sure many people can relate to it. I never had such an experience. So I'm not as thankful!
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
11/25/2015 | 1:03:27 PM
Re: Word wrap!
I'm thankfull  for the word processor. I remember my father buying me an electric type writer.  If I made a mistake, I had to use white out to cover it, then type it over to make it look nice.  Finally, try to align it again on the type writer.  There was no grammar or spell checker, you mistype, you had a lot of work cut out for you.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
11/26/2015 | 3:08:05 PM
Re: Word wrap!
I love the fact that there is a Word Processor in existence now, but I'm not really a fan of MS word. In fact I find it too complicated and cluttered with too many variables. It is really hard to delete a blank page and merge documents having different formatting!
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2015 | 12:20:17 AM
Re: Word wrap!
@Brian: I second here with Sunita. MS word is terrible.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 9:58:48 PM
Re: Word wrap!
@ PedroGonzales – A world without the word processor would be a nightmare. Remember the good old typewriters.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
11/25/2015 | 6:18:38 PM
Re: Word wrap!
Microsoft Word 97, copy-paste, and it seemed that magically the universe had more resource than at the start.

Google search would be another technology that has changed the lives of everyone. An individual can have a educational degree in a specific science but, they can still manage to lookup expert information concerning a completely different area of science.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
11/26/2015 | 3:10:02 PM
Re: Word wrap!
Brian raised a point here. Where would we be without Google search? Google was single handedly responsible for a huge bump in number of people who used the internet. Earlier people weren't a fan of it because it was too complicated.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:04:52 PM
Re: Word wrap!
Google the answer for everything around us. With the introduction of Google search we found a new way of knowing what's around us. 
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:45:17 PM
Re: Word wrap!
@Brian.Dean,

Thanks for mentioning Google Search. I remember during collegue that afte I learned to use logical operators for searching, I was considered an uber geek only brecause I was able to find almost anything online just using keywords. Today we have Google Voice/Siri/Cortana and many others.

What would be the world without Google? Probably less connected
Todder
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Todder,
User Rank: Moderator
11/26/2015 | 12:22:48 PM
Re: Word wrap!
Duct tape without a doubt is a life saver. After that is Frog tape for painting :-)
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
11/26/2015 | 3:11:51 PM
Re: Word wrap!
I think instant noodles are more of a life saver than duct tape. Oh and ABS in cars!
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 7:14:52 AM
Re: Word wrap!
Instant noodles over duct tape? Good grief man, get a hold of yourself!
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 11:52:31 AM
Re: Word wrap!
Instant noodles saves you when you are dying out of hunger. Duct tape saves you when you are dying out of listening to what others have to say about you.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
11/26/2015 | 3:13:21 PM
Gps
GPS is the single best thing to have come. And whoever thought Mobile Phones could use this technology is nothing short of a genius.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2015 | 12:19:15 AM
Re: Gps
@Sunita: Indeed. Whoever thought smartphones can provide navigation really deserve a medal.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2015 | 12:19:15 AM
Re: Gps
@Sunita: Indeed. Whoever thought smartphones can provide navigation really deserve a medal.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2015 | 2:24:23 AM
Re: Gps
@sunita I agree with you. It has become very easy for you to find your way in anywhere you go. You are sure that you will not get lost.
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2015 | 8:14:09 AM
Re: Gps
The combination of mobile phones and GPS is the single greatest consumer technology move since the PC in my opinion. 
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
11/29/2015 | 10:36:26 PM
Re: Gps
@progman2000 I agree. That is one awesome combination which has help most of the users across the globe.
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
11/29/2015 | 10:53:10 PM
Re: Gps
Wow, you are so right!  The technologies you listed made me realize that I take a lot of these technologies for granted. Your list made me pause, reflect, and appreciate on all of the technologies that I use, depend on, and benefit from. Let's toast to gratitiude for technology!
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
11/29/2015 | 10:55:59 PM
Re: Gps
I am very dependent on my GPS. It enables me to get to and from many places easily nd effortlessly. Otherwise, I would be much more lost, late, inconvenienced, and aggravated.
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 7:13:32 AM
Re: Gps
Ditto - I probably used my phone GPS a half dozen times during the past holiday week.
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 11:54:26 AM
Re: Gps
I use GPS everyday. If Location settings on your phone aren't switched on, the Uber will never come. And I always use it about twice everyday, mostly because of Uber rides.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:09:19 PM
Re: Gps
@yalanand – Plenty of other applications build around GPS technology. Maps, Cab services, Location sharing apps, Device locator apps etc. This is a classic example of one technology with multiple benefits. 
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:07:32 PM
Re: Gps
@ Angelfuego – GPS is one great tool we all used at some point as navigation help or even measuring a point to point distance.
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
11/26/2015 | 9:17:49 PM
Navigation

I believe that navigation tool is the one I go for at first place. It is so helpful especially when you are on a foreign tour of an unknown surrounding. I have used it and found it very useful.

Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
11/26/2015 | 11:40:19 PM
Re: Navigation
"I believe that navigation tool is the one I go for at first place. It is so helpful especially when you are on a foreign tour of an unknown surrounding. I have used it and found it very useful."

Nomii, I think majority are voting for GPRs and navigation system.  I would like to know other than Google Map, any other open source navigation and map services are available. 
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2015 | 12:15:28 AM
Re: Navigation
I second GPS
I still recall how much I used the Thomas Guide in SoCal. Funny, I used to like it. It's almost unreal that now, it's just a thing of the past. This year is the 100th anniversary of its foundation, and most likely going to a museum pretty soon.
Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
12/1/2015 | 11:16:46 PM
Re: Navigation
"I still recall how much I used the Thomas Guide in SoCal. Funny, I used to like it. It's almost unreal that now, it's just a thing of the past. This year is the 100th anniversary of its foundation, and most likely going to a museum pretty soon."

Mak63, what's this Thomas guide? Is it something like maps and guidance system?
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
11/26/2015 | 9:20:05 PM
Weather App

I would also like to add weather application. It has made our lives very comfortable as we aleady know to some extant about the prediction and can plan our selves accordingly.

Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
11/26/2015 | 11:30:46 PM
Re: Weather App
"I would also like to add weather application. It has made our lives very comfortable as we aleady know to some extant about the prediction and can plan our selves accordingly."

Nomii, you are very right about various weather applications.  Eventhough it has not much use with some of the western countries; it's very useful in Eastern Asia pacific countries like Japan, Korea, Taiwan etc.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2015 | 12:16:20 AM
Re: Weather App
I am pretty thankful for smartphones. Truly the best invention so far. Just think: in the future smartphones will play a major role in controlling just about anything an everything.
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 11:59:22 AM
Re: Weather App
@SachinEE: With the advent of IOT, the only boundary is our imagination. If we can cross that limitation, we would be using smartphones in a larger way. 
Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
12/1/2015 | 11:19:36 PM
Re: Weather App
"I am pretty thankful for smartphones. Truly the best invention so far. Just think: in the future smartphones will play a major role in controlling just about anything an everything."

SachinEE, you are right Smartphone made the GPS and map technology wide popular. I believe that most of the Smartphone users had used the maps and gps atleast once in their life.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2015 | 12:18:23 AM
Re: Weather App
Weather apps are amazing. It indeed makes travel a lot easier. Also for frequent flyers there is this app that calculates the correct time you should rest, even among time differences under many time zones, so that your normal functioning biological clock isn't disturbed.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2015 | 2:28:02 AM
Re: Weather App
@SachinEE, that's true. It is also better if the mobile phone can provide the weather forecast before you start your day. May be an alert on your phone screen, saying "it will rain after 12.00 Noon, please take the umbrella with you"
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 11:58:13 AM
Re: Weather App
@Shamika: I think Google Now does that, also Siri. I believe we wouldn't need a PA to organise our day anymore, we would have a digital PA always present by our side.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:11:41 PM
Re: Weather App
Google now, Siri and other assistance apps need to have an AI component installed to understand the user. Currently they are just following preprogramed voice patterns and instructions. I am sure that day is not too far from where we are right now.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:20:38 PM
Re: Weather App
@shamika – You could use a task application to trigger you the weather update via email. Try using IF by IFTTT if you are on Android. 
Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
12/1/2015 | 11:21:17 PM
Re: Weather App
"Weather apps are amazing. It indeed makes travel a lot easier. Also for frequent flyers there is this app that calculates the correct time you should rest, even among time differences under many time zones, so that your normal functioning biological clock isn't disturbed."

SachinEE, I haven't used weather apps for travelling but a frequent user in home town to know about the forecast and predictions.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:17:00 PM
Re: Weather App
@nomii – Weather apps are always useful when you need to play your week ahead or if you travelling frequently. 
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
12/1/2015 | 11:31:47 AM
Re: Weather App
@Shakeeb true. I believe that every app has some purpose. It might not be handy for one but for other it might be the best thing that can happen to him. So I am waiting for this list to grow further.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2015 | 2:22:25 AM
Mobile phones.
I think mobile phones should take the number 1 position. It is a huge achievement. It has become one of the necessities now.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2015 | 2:34:19 AM
Social Media
Well it has both props and cons. It is a great way to stay connected. However when it comes to privacy, it is the individual's responsibility maintain the privacy settings based on their requirement. What do you say?
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2015 | 8:15:50 AM
Social Media?
Eh - I would argue Social Media has done us more harm than good. I would trade reconnecting with high school friends I never liked to begin with for never, ever hearing the name Kardashian.
estherschindler
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estherschindler,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/4/2015 | 3:38:46 PM
Re: Social Media?
Each of us has a different experience with social media. In my case, reconnecting with my high school friends (some of whom I knew since first grade!) was a good thing. I discovered that both they and I had changed since then. And that most of them decided I wasn't as much of a dork as they remembered.

You can tune your social media feeds so you can minimize (if not eliminate) the topics you don't want to hear about.

For me, it's been a net Plus. And not just because of cat videos.
Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 5:28:11 PM
Many thanks - untethered
This is a great list!! I so enjoy walking around with a device that acts as both a mini computer and phone (with WORD WRAP). Wireless technology is so wonderful. When I was a young driver, I carried change for a pay phone in the car just in case. I had a map too (never used it). 
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:15:14 PM
Re: Many thanks - untethered
@ Michelle- So true, today you hardly see a physical map. The coins and paper money will gradually fade off and the credit cards would be linked to mobile payments. Soon the only thing you need to carry will be your mobile phone.

 
Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:25:34 PM
Re: Many thanks - untethered
That's a facinating future that's both scary and likely true. Cash money is really handy to have when payment systems crash. I hope it sticks around for the future. 
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
12/2/2015 | 9:46:56 PM
Re: Many thanks - untethered
I hope so as well.  Both debit and credit cards aren't secure enough.  My friend got her money stolen from her debit credit.  Sometimes unscrupulous employees clone customers' credit cards to make other purchases.  This doesn't happen with cash.  I was hoping that by the year 2000 we would have better card technology.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:38:44 PM
Re: Many thanks - untethered
@shakeeb,

I don't think we're that far from the point of just carrying your phone. Even thought in many countries they are still years behind, in many 1st world countries is a reality. I myself don't carry any cash, just my credit card, ID and cell phone (and my ID I can have digital if I wanted to).
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
12/19/2015 | 9:37:52 PM
Re: Many thanks - untethered
@mejiac, I do the same, I just carry my keys, cell phone, debit card, and identification. I usually hold it all in one hand, if I don't have any pockets. I don't have a need for a pocketbook. I feel like pocketbooks just get filled up with a bunch of unnecessary stuff to lug around. In the rare occasions that I use a pocketbook, I use a small clutch bag just containing my identification, keys, debit card, and phone.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:42:50 PM
Re: Many thanks - untethered
@Michelle,

I share your sentiment. It's amazing that today's phones have the same processing capabilities as the same computers we used 5 years ago (and the gap is shrinking)

Today we can control our homes with our phones, so i don't think we're that far away from docking our phones and that becoming our PC. Attach a mouse and keyboard and we're good to go
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Author
11/30/2015 | 11:26:02 PM
The future is so ....
What a great list that I am truly thankful for every day! Technology does make so much of our lives more enriching and entertaining! Imagine what this list will look like in twenty years!
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
12/1/2015 | 7:51:27 AM
Wireless connectivity
Esther, what a wonderful collection of technologies! I am particularly grateful for wireless technologies without which I wouldn't be able to lead the kind of life I lead today, somehow of a digital nomad working from here, there, and everywhere across cafés, cities, countries. Like you, I am very grateful for the Word Processor and for the Internet, with all the knowledge and information it brings to my fingerprints. I am also grateful for claud storage. -Susan
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
12/1/2015 | 11:34:40 AM
Flight Radar

One app which I think most of you are not familiar with is flight radar. Its a very nice app where you can check any flight in its route. You can check its real time status and its location. It was very handy for me once my family was travelling abroad and I was waiting for their arrival. I was able to get their travelling status in a wink. A great app indeed.

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