Chesapeake Home Theatre & Hi-Fi

Larry Dent is the owner of Chesapeake Home Theatre & Hi-Fi.

These articles were written for the Islander Weekly.

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Larry's Tech Talk

Veteran's Day

The Veterans Day National Ceremony is held each year on November 11th at Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony commences at 11:00 a.m. with a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns and continues inside the Memorial Amphitheater with a parade of colors by veterans' organizations and remarks from dignitaries. The ceremony is intended to honor and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces.
Since this is the Veteran’s Day issue, Joyce from the Islander Weekly suggested that I write about how technology has changed the way military families stay in touch when they are half a world apart. I have never personally experienced the military lifestyle, so I had to do a little bit of homework.

Before I met my wife, she served in the Air Force in Europe. That was back in the eighties. She confirmed what I already assumed. Even if you had access to a telephone back then, “long distance” rates were ridiculously expensive. And to make a long distance call, she had to go into the local town to the local phone company, and have the operator make the call and hope for a connection to the correct person on the other end. All for about $6.00 a minute. The telephone was an amazing invention, but it had some limitations.

As we all can imagine, phone calls were kept to a minimum, if at all. During the several years that she served, she received one phone call from her father. To speak with her, he had to connect with the Base Commander who had her tracked down to let her know of a death in the family. Communication with families overseas was minimal, expensive, and almost impossible at times. I asked her how long it took for letters to arrive from home. It took about 3 weeks back then for a letter to arrive where she was stationed. The Pony Express was faster!

But that was a few years ago and today is now. Enter the Internet! I don’t know exactly what the armed forces allow, and it probably varies according to location and situation. But the internet allows many ways for families to communicate. First, there’s good old e-mail. Funny I called e-mail old, it really isn’t that old! Anyway, e-mail has to be up there with the some of the best inventions of the twentieth century. Photos and videos can be attached to e-mails. Photos from yesterday’s birthday party might be posted to a website and accessed by the overseas family member serving our country.

E-mail is great, but text messaging provides instant interaction. Teenagers these days wouldn’t survive an hour without text messaging on their cell phones! Since our soldiers overseas probably don’t have cell phones, they do have the ability to “instant message”. It is similar to text messaging, except you would use a computer instead of a cell phone. Services like Facebook, AOL, Yahoo and others allow “IM-ing” within their websites.

And then there is Skype. Skype can be a free online video conferencing application that provides face to face video and audio. I am sure our armed forces IT managers and engineers keep their networks secure, so I don’t know how much Skype-ing is allowed. But the capability is there. Long distance rates are almost gone and internationally we have “voice over internet”, aka VOIP. The days of $6.00 a minute phone calls, bad connections and inconveniences are gone.

I’ve only mentioned the obvious consumer level services available. I have to think that our military has their own internal services keeping families in touch. Serving one’s country is a huge sacrifice, and if technology can make being separated a little better, that’s a good thing.

Families are a large part of our culture and when a family member leaves to serve our country, it is a stressful situation. But technology has the ability to connect the separated parties with daily happenings on both ends of the wire.

Thank you to all of America’s Armed Forces Veterans.