New advancements are (usually) pretty cool

There have been some mind-boggling inventions throughout the course of my lifetime. No, I wasn’t around for the dawn of the automotive industry, though Bob Bertram tells me they were indeed exciting times. And airplanes were already a standard means of travel by the time I started digressing around the house in diapers. But some of the advancements I’ve seen in my relatively short amount of time on this planet often make me mentally pause and digest just how far we’ve come.

The microwave oven certainly springs to mind, as it has made thawing out meat and making popcorn a snap — two things very near and dear to my heart. As does the remote control and cable television, which has allowed me access to hundreds of channels without standing up, even though I rarely find something I actually want to watch.

We could also discuss the VCR, the DVD, Blu-ray, DVR and another 1,000 ways to turn our homes into entertainment centers that don’t require us to wear pants to watch whatever we want to see, whenever we want to see it. There have been phenomenal advancements in medicine, as well, as witnessed by spectacular improvements in treating cancer and other life-threatening diseases, as well as seeing athletes rip up their knees and return the next season as good as new.

This age, however, will forever be remembered for the pioneering steps forward in technology, from the home computer to the microprocessor to the silicon chip to the wild, wild world of the Internet. And, let’s certainly not leave out the smart phone.

I love my iPhone 4. Its keyboard is easy to use once you get the hang of it, I can store my photos and music on it and the apps are fantastic. Last weekend I was waiting on my car at the valet area of a casino in Atlantic City and I received a text that my cell phone bill was due. I quickly clicked on the app, pushed a button and my bill was paid before my car came around.

No fuss. No muss. And no stamp.

But in this time of always taking things to the next level, there are many out there looking for new and better ways to use their iPhones.

For example, a Reuters story last week focused on two Australian entrepreneurs who have come up with a plastic case that fits over the iPhone and has a slide-out beer opener.

“We’re always out at friends’ houses and so on, and in some cases you may not have your keys on you,” said Chris Peters, who developed the case with Rob Ward. (No, not our local Rob Ward) “So we thought, why don’t we attach a bottle opener to an iPhone case? We always have our phones on us.”

For some reason, this makes total sense to me. My Australian friends, I welcome you to the Good Ideas for the iPhone Club.

On the other hand, a bass player for the New York rock band Coheed and Cambria came up with a very bad use for his smart phone. According to another Reuters piece, Michael Todd, 30, went to a Walgreens in Massachusetts and approached the pharmacist. At that point, Todd allegedly showed the pharmacist a text message on his Blackberry that said he had a bomb on him and he was demanding prescription painkillers.

The employee then reportedly did the smart thing by handing over a half-dozen bottles of oxycodone pills and calling the police after he left the building. Police were reportedly able to piece together enough from surveillance videos and a witness description of the taxi that Todd left in to make an arrest.

“It is somewhat routine that in robberies, the robber gives a note to the clerk, but obviously this was a little bit more high-tech,” said Gregg Miliote of the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office.

Fine. So not every new advancement is a great one.