Recently, the recordings of the 2021 TechSummit have been made publicly available at: https://nisonger.osu.edu/technology-project/techsummit-2021-virtual-bag/

In addition to presentation videos, conference handouts and a complete list of TechSummit 2021 vendors & their websites are available.

As I was reviewing the information from the 2021 TechSummit Conference, and the many technological advancements that give people with disabilities more options to live independently with supports, I am reminded of the importance of a piece of technology much earlier in my life.

Or as Billy Joel put it in part of a well-known song lyric –

“… I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man’s clothes …”

I am reminded of a portable transistor radio with a single ear earpiece.

Why am I bringing forward this decades old technology when the 2021 TechSummit was discussing some of the newest technology? Please journey with me for a few moments.

Over my numerous surgeries and medical procedures as a person with Cerebral Palsy, many of them entailed 3-4 months or more far away from home in the hospital. Many times, television was only available for an hour or two in the evening. And, as I again betray my age, smart phones and the internet were many, many years away.

But I could have a portable handheld transistor radio with a single ear earpiece – about the size of a small paperback book.

This gave me access to the outside world and intellectual stimulation at a time when most of my energies were taken up with surgery, post-surgical physical challenges joined by considerable pain and rehabilitation. The radio allowed me intellectual freedom with news, sports, music, talk shows and the like from local stations. In a time when physical focus and recuperation was the top priority, this now simple technology kept my thinking brain engaged and kept my energy up for the next day’s physical therapy (also, it gave the nurses, aides, janitors, cooks, and other staff a rest from my constant questions and discussion as I tried to keep my thinking up to date in addition to physical improvement).

Okay, before I relate this discussion back to the 2021 TechSummit, let’s answer the question: WHAT’S THE MOST FREQUENTLY MANUFACTURED ITEM IN HISTORY?

As you may have guessed, it is the transistor (although it may not now be the same type as in my handheld radio).

In a 2018 article, computerhistory.org says “MOS transistors are microscopic electronic devices that serve as the fundamental building blocks of silicon computer chips. Millions could fit inside the period at the end of this sentence.”

It goes on to say, “In 2014 industry analyst Jim Handy estimated that 2.9 sextillion transistors had been manufactured by the industry since the first one sprang to life in late 1947. A sextillion is one followed by 21 zeros—that’s orders of magnitude greater than the number of stars in the Milky Way. He recently updated the total to 13 sextillion. As modern graphics and artificial intelligence chips each contain billions of transistors the total continues to build at an astronomical rate.”

Link to entire article if you’re interested: https://computerhistory.org/blog/13-sextillion-counting-the-long-winding-road-to-the-most-frequently-manufactured-human-artifact-in-history/

Last point, how does my trip down transistor radio memory lane and the 13 sextillion transistors made as of 2018 relate to the 2021 TechSummit and new possible choices for people with disabilities to live more independently with supports and help from the latest technology?

First, listen to some or all the presentations from the TechSummit conference at the link above.

Next, I submit for your consideration that this new technology has the potential to change, support and enrich our lives as people with disabilities in the same way my transistor radio gave me freedom and choices in a time in my life when my choices were not that numerous.

Don’t be afraid of these new technologies and just say I want to keep things the way they are. Learn all you can. That’s what events like the TechSummit are all about (and thanks to all the sponsors you’ll see on the website for making the conference possible). Ask a lot of questions. Try out new things to see if they will work for you.

This new technology might just give you access and support the same way my little radio did so many years ago.

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