Fourth of July: How to grill and tweet

Fireworks explode behind a Ferris wheel at the 18th annual Electric Daisy Carnival at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on June 22, 2014, in Las Vegas.

Ethan Miller, Getty Images

The Fourth of July conjures up images of backyard barbecues, parades and fireworks. But what about technology? These days, the nation's annual celebration largely runs on silicon chips, electronic motors and batteries.

Take the BBQ grill. It used to be that you'd pile on the charcoal, douse them in lighter fluid and try not to set the garage on fire. Then someone came up with charcoal chimneys -- basically tin cans with handles that let you load newspaper under the charcoal and get the whole lot ready in about 10 minutes.

Now there's a veritable rib-rack of options for high-tech grilling. They include such tools as a specialized fan that keeps blowing on the coals long after you're out of breath, a wireless thermometer that talks to your smartphone and an automated grill cleaner.

The concepts even gave one charcoal company a chance to poke fun at the "world's most social grill."

If you can't bear to unplug while waiting for the chicken, burgers, or ribs to be done, you can get a WiFi extender to extend your indoors Internet connection into the great outdoors. Or how about hooking Bluetooth speakers to your smartphone and filling the patio with music?

Technology is also replacing fireworks, with laser light shows offering an impressive -- and non-lethal -- alternative. Just don't look directly into the lasers.

The police are also making use of technology. Departments in some towns are using technology to pinpoint illegal fireworks. Think of it as just another reason to mount your own laser light display rather than setting off firecrackers.

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.