In every industry an alarming number of myths seem to crop up from time to time but perhaps because technology itself is often the vehicle used to spread myths, there have been some doozies over the years. I thought I'd take a look at perhaps some of the biggest technology myths that I have come across over the years.
'They are going to start charging for Facebook'
Many of us have been taught that if you want something good you have to pay for it. This is perhaps why the myth that Facebook will start charging its users "soon" has reared its ugly head from time to time. The truth is we are paying for it. We give Facebook an incredible amount of personal information which it then uses to target us with advertising but the reality is the advertisers are the ones footing the bill, not us and Facebook will never charge for its services. Debunked.
'Video games lead to violence'
This one hits home with me personally because it's often debated with those closest to me. This all got started in 1999 when two teenagers carried out the Columbine High School massacre and the media trumped up the fact that they were Doom players. Since then, video games have been tied to violent acts and have been cited as the cause of such behaviour. Besides the numerous studies, (all of which carrying some sort of bias) the real truth lies in the crime statistics. Video games sales have continued to increase (from 5.5 billion to 9.5 billion dollars from 1999 to 2007 alone) and violent crime among youth has actually declined, according to the FBI.
'Google knows everything about you'
While the truth is that Google does save all search queries associated with your IP address for nine months, it doesn't have any personally identifiable information to go along with the data. No Google employee is allowed to make connections between IP addresses and individuals and Google has a history of denying requests from the U.S. government to hand over information about search histories. So while the company has a lot of data, it's not using it in ways that you might think.
'Macs don't get viruses'
While it's true that just by the design of the operating system Macs are less likely to get viruses, they are certainly capable of it. Since most viruses are designed to gather personal information from users that can be sold on the black market, they tend to target the most popular and vulnerable platforms. The Windows environment fits the bill perfectly and that is why there tends to be more activity in this space, but it would be foolish to think that you can't get one on a Mac. It's just less likely and in most cases, more difficult to do so.
'More bars means more service'
We're talking about cellphones here in case you weren't clear. It's a common myth that if you have lots of bars you will have good service but it's important to understand what the bars actually mean. The bars on your cellphone indicate the strength of the cell tower closest to you. The level of service you get will depend on how many other people are using the same tower (so in other words, your signal strength could be great but your service poor, particularly in densely populated areas).
Of course the biggest myths surround e-mail, from claims that you have won a lottery to the "fact" that Bill Gates will send you money if you forward e-mails. You should treat all unsolicited e-mail as suspicious and if you are not sure if something is valid or not, head over to snopes.com and search to find out if something is true or just a rumour. If people did this before forwarding e-mails I'd be willing to bet the amount of e-mails being passed around would be cut in half. I have to go, a relative of mine is trapped in England and needs me to send money, fast! Debunked.
Syd Bolton is the curator of the Personal Computer Museum and the manager of Information Technology at ACIC / Methapharm. You can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail care of The Brantford Expositor.