As many of you already know, I have a daughter who is spending the year in China. What you may be surprised to know is that I saw her on Saturday.
No, I did not pay the $1,400 round trip airfare to travel to China. I saw her on my computer, thanks to a device known as a "Web cam."
To me, it was nothing short of a miracle. I can remember watching The Jetsons on television and seeing George Jetson talk to people on the futuristic telephone while also being able to see them on a screen. But now, technology has catapulted us into a Jetson-like world where we can virtually do the same thing.
I already knew a little bit about Web cams. A few years ago, I was interested in the panda bears at the Toledo Zoo, and a Web cam was set up at the zoo's Web site, aimed at the panda bear cage, so I could watch the panda bears move around their cage any time I wanted to. I thought this was rather spectacular the idea that I could watch something miles away, live as it happened.
There is a story in my family that when my great-uncle got his first television set in the early 1950s, his mother commented, "How do they get all those people into that little box?"
Silly, yes but her amazement at the new technology is very similar to how I felt as, over the weekend, my daughter in China appeared on the computer screen in my living room.
It was 9 p.m. here, and 9 a.m. where she lives in Lanzhou, China. "What's our Skype password?" my other daughter called out to me in the kitchen. I told her, and she and her sister in China were connected via Skype, a system which allows us to hear each other's voices over the computer completely free, unlike the telephone. It is odd to be talking to my computer using Skype, and to hear my daughter's voice emanate from the computer. But the price is right.
Anyway, this time Skype was different. "I can see Ellen!" my daughter in the living room in Norwalk announced. And when I rushed in to look at the computer, I saw her, too.
She pointed the Web cam around her room in China, and I saw what it looks like. I got to meet her Korean roommate over the Web cam, too.
We asked Ellen if her bed was comfortable there, and she said it was harder than American beds. To prove it, she pointed the Web cam at the bed and she started jumping on it to show it wasn't as bouncy.
Wow! All the way from China, my daughter was jumping up and down on her bed!
A few years from now, watching someone live on the other side of the world may be commonplace. My computer recognizes the word "Web cam" and doesn't ask me to spell it differently, so that's a sign that Web cams are fairly common. But to me, they are amazing.
My daughter suggested that I should buy a Web cam, so that she can see us, too. Maybe I'll look into that. Meanwhile, I'll marvel over what I saw, and look forward to seeing my daughter in China again on the Web cam. On Saturday, I heard her voice and I saw her face ... I only wish that the sense of touch could travel over the computer, too, so I could give her a hug.