What One Tech Innovation Would You Miss In Prison? [We Ask You]

We Ask You   What One Tech Innovation Would You Miss In Prison? [We Ask You]Quora is often the source of some real pearls of wisdom, especially if you follow the right people such as well-known Internet entrepreneurs. Which was the case recently when a question regarding prisons prompted a response from someone recently released from one after 25 years inside.

The question asked related to how the indescribably rapid evolution of technology, especially over the past few decades, affects prisoners when they’re released. A guy named Michael Santos answered, describing his experience of being released from prison into a strange new world where smartphones are everywhere and social networking is commonplace. Now we’re going to examine that question from another angle.

This Week’s Question…

We want to know, What One Tech Innovation Would You Miss In Prison? If you’re not comfortable thinking about being banged up then think of being stranded on a desert island for 20 years instead. Whatever the scenario, the result is the same – those technological innovations you’ve come to know, love, and rely on are suddenly no longer available.

alcatraz prison cell   What One Tech Innovation Would You Miss In Prison? [We Ask You]

Would it be a piece of hardware or gadget that you’d miss the most? If so, which one and why? Would it be a Web service? Or the ability to order goods online? Would your mind revert to thinking in back-to-basics terms, with an oven, a kettle, or a microwave at the top of your wishlist? Let’s assume that this is a prison with no modern conveniences, and certainly none that are available to the inmates.

Think about this question laterally, as I will be asking questions at the end. If you’d prefer to further the discussion by instead talking about how hard it is to (re)learn skills after not using them for a long time, then feel free to do so. This is about getting to the heart of our current use of technology, and how we rely upon it to do so much. If it was all to be taken away suddenly then what would we miss the most?

Drawing Conclusions

All comments will be digested to form conclusions in a follow-up post next week where we will detail what You Told Us. One reader will be chosen for the coveted Comment Of The Week, getting their name up in lights, the respect of other readers, and 150 MakeUseOf points to use for MakeUseOf Rewards. What more motivation than that do you need to respond?

We Ask You is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. The questions asked are usually open-ended and likely to necessitate a discussion. Some are opinion-based, while others see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps to fellow MakeUseOf Readers. This column is nothing without you, as MakeUseOf is nothing without you.

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Warming KY jelly

Dave Parrack


Carol G

I’ve often wondered what I would do if incarcerated! (I’m an attorney & knowing what can tragically go wrong that leads to incarceration is not an idle rumination). Can’t say yet what ‘I’d miss most re technology” access. But I really think it’s an interesting question.

druv vb

Batteries, for an MP3 player. Especially when they get low and your device is about to turn off. But honestly, being stranded alone somewhere, the only thing I would need is a book to keep my mind busy reading.

Dave Parrack

Batteries is a great shout. I suspect all those who have answered with other devices have forgotten about the gift of electricity.

druv vb

Thats true. The gift of “Electricity” is neglected these days. I don’t think many people care about how they are getting electricity at home, for their devices. Living in a power outage prison or deserted island with no moonlight is like getting back to the prehistoric age. And it will be during this particular moment, that people will think – ” I wish I had my smartphone in here, I could have watched some internet video gags…”
In most cases, a book is good company.


Interesting question but I think it’s a little too broad. I’ve asked myself similar questions like “If I could travel back 100 years or 500 years, what would I bring with me?” And… “If I could travel forward 100 years, what kind of technology do I think I could bring back?”

Based on your question (prison, not desert island), certainly an ultra-hybrid (laptop/tablet) like a YOGA would be at the top of my list. With or without an internet connection (internet could be considered a second wishlist item per your parameters), this would keep me happily occupied all day long.

It’s interesting how the computer itself (with internet) has replaced so many items all by itself – Post Office (email), Record/CD Players, TV (streaming), VCR/DVD Players (local video files), Newspapers, Encyclopedias, Typewriter, Gaming Machines, Image and Video Processing machines and so much more.

Even the handheld PCs (ie, smartphones) – capable of much of the same as above are also slowly being used to replace Cameras, GPS, Video Recorders, Credit Cards, Alarm Clocks, Wrist Watches and Landline Telephones.

Dave Parrack

These questions tend to be broad as we also have a weekly poll with a finite number of answers.

So, a hybrid laptop but not necessarily the Internet? That’s an interesting choice, especially with so much content being in the cloud these days. You’d have to hope you’d pre-loaded the device with stuff to keep you occupied.


Actually, The Internet and PC are two different things. Naturally, if the question allows for both, I would opt for both items:) Look at it this way… I could select a *digital* TV but that doesn’t automatically mean I have Cable service.

“You’d have to hope you’d pre-loaded the device with stuff to keep you occupied.”

Seriously? :-O

In terms of broadness, in the prison scenario I think I would miss something as simple as a jog and the sense of freedom it brings. In the desert island scenario and struggling to survive day to day, it seems that the very basics would occupy my mind so much that I wouldn’t even think about tech. Thinking about a cheeseburger, a comfortable bed, the sound of someone else’s voice or even a toothbrush with paste would be foremost on my mind.

Dave Parrack

That was my point exactly. You opted for a laptop but no Internet, which means you’d only have what was pre-loaded on to the computer when you entered the prison. Otherwise you’d have to create new content for yourself.

We specifically wanted to know about technology though, so you can miss a whole host of things, including those you mentioned, way before you’d begin thinking about a gadget or gizmo.

Humza Aamir

Wow, a book could be written on what Micheal felt when he was released. It really is mind boggling when progress in technology is to be observed over the past two decades or so. The only thing that differs most of us from Micheal is his unawareness to all this change.

To him, we may just be tapping our touch screens and sharing cat videos, but our jaws drop too as soon as a new gadget arrives and renders the previous one completely pointless.

And if by any unfortunate event, I happened to be in prison, I’d feel a bit mad and crazy without my WiFi enabled 3G smartphone for the first few weeks, then things would probably smooth out as I wont be gazing at screens anymore. I might even accept the nasty food and routine which criminals have to endure for the all the poker games and fun I’d be having (*This just comes from Hollywood movies*)

Finally, if I came to find out my time in jail was supposed to be for a couple of years; After the first one, I would have concluded that the tech obsessed world out there is where the people are prisoners and captives and that this prison has more freedom and enjoyment that gradually eroded my addiction for techy stuff.

Dave Parrack

That’s an interesting way of looking at it, that the time inside could actually prove to be an escape from the endless need for technology and gadgets.

Humza Aamir

Yup :)


It’s really hard to short the list to one item , I pondered hard but couldn’t confined to something specific. However I think any ‘device with internet access’ is one that , I will miss in prison.

Dave Parrack

I suspect that’s going to be a noticeable trend. As long as it’s hooked up to the Internet then it’s all good.

Jim Gibson

It would have to be the internet. Without it how would I get all the info I need.

Tara Moser

What a great question to ask. I would miss all of my tech toys. It is too hard to just pick one. we have come as far with tech that i don’t think it would be easy to live the old way.

Dany Bouffard

I think what I would miss the most is the capacity to go to the internet on my computer, or any device capable to do it. If I was on an island I know how to survive in the wild, it would just be dull to not have a computer and internet. But I think probably what I would miss the most would be basic electricity, since without it, you can’t event have computer or internet.

Arron Walker

The technological advancement I’d miss is technology itself.

Muo TechGuy

If it were a UK prison, you probably wouldn’t need to go without anything to be honest. Satellite tv, computers, xboxes – they have ‘em all. Given how poor some people, it’s no wonder being locked up is actually like a holiday to them.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

You are kidding! It’s so much more than what I have in my house!

Vipul Jain

It’s pretty simple – My cellphone.
Since everything has been wrapped into this small bundle nowadays, a cellphone is equivalent to almost all tech toys (not exactly but sufficient enough).

Dave Parrack

The smartphone — one device to rule them all.


I would like a file. Delivered in a cake.

Extra Extra

I would miss my iPhone the most because with not a lot to do in prison, I would yearn for the distraction that the many apps can provide, from listening to music to playing games and from writing to reading. Of course, without a power outlet, my iPhone wouldn’t be of much use once the battery dies unless I want to turn it into an odd-shaped hockey puck.

Dave Parrack

That’s very true. An iPhone is only any good with a power supply and an Internet connection.

Scott Macmillan

The internet!

Rajaa Chowdhury

GPS and Google direction/navigation for my escape out. :) :P

Alan Wade

What tech innovation would I miss in prison? That’s a good question! I thought long and hard about this and every time I thought of something, quickly dismissed it because of something else.
Finally, it was obvious – My mobile phone!

I use mine for:
A clock
A thermometer
A notepad
A password manager
A radio
A media player
A Calander
A camera
A contacts organiser
A News source
and now and again – A phone!
Take away my mobile and you have taken away all my contact with civilisation!

My closest second was an electric kettle! Cannot do with my copious supply of tea and coffee!

Lisa Santika Onggrid

If you’re going to prison for 25 years like that man, I believe by the time you’re free your mobile phone is something that could be attached to your body all time. Talk about augmented reality.

Dave Parrack

Smartphones are phenomenal piece of kit. I wondered if every response to this would be “Smartphone” but thankfully not. Great list of uses.

Alan Wade

Like I said, it was that or my kettle and that would’nt have been much to write about.
I would have said my computer as I spend up to 10 hours a day on it but figured that a few replys would be about their computers so tried to think a little more laterally.


A fully customized gaming desktop (Made only by me obviously) with a high speed Internet connection. Enough for me.

Scott Lange

Escalator’s at the Costa Rica Airport

Caroline West

It would have to be my Laptop. I know there is Internet you can use if you are in Prison, but it’s not the same as having 24hr access not only to the computer itself, but everything ‘Net’ too.

I think we are so used to having our toys and gizmos that the chance of no longer having our own accessible freedom to it, would be a nightmare.

I think we would go through withdrawal symptoms (I’m serious!) until we got used to not having them around any longer,and as freely, as we did.

Dave Parrack

I think you’re spot-on about the withdrawal symptoms. I suspect addiction, or at least over-reliance, on gadgets and gizmos is a bigger problem than anyone would care to admit.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Hey, that man is quick to catch up, even going to Quora, but his wife seems to be quite savvy.
On topic, I’m adaptive to changes, but I’d be astounded if I’m stranded for years and when I’m back to civilization I no longer find real paperbacks. Call me old school.
Anyway, I think the feeling would be similar to how you recall your childhood days and all the technologies you have behind.

Dave Parrack

How soon until nostalgia kicked in?

Nancy Hodson

It would have to be a “loaded” computer.

Don Gateley

My Kindle Reader. Nothing I’ve ever owned (and I’m 68 y.o.) has been as profoundly satisfying.

Jacques Knipe

Definitely the internet, specifically for keeping up with the daily news and happenings in the world. Being disconnected is like having withdrawal symptoms.