Friday, January 23, 2009
Techno Tangle: Where Will It Go?
Here at my house, we live, as best as we are able, in the 21st century. It is a constant struggle to stay current. I could work a full-time job to pay for my life, and still need a part-time job to pay for the technology I would like to have to keep up with the newest and latest. Each new piece of technology has a new set of protocols and, though I don't do this, I could probably take a class at least twice a month to expand my knowledge of all the uses of each piece of technology I own. Mark you: I'm not a technophobe. I love the Internet, blogging, Google, high speed connections, email and digital cameras and I can't go anywhere without my cell phone and my bluetooth. I don't even have a land line telephone anymore.
My parents, in California, still have the same telephone number they had when I was born. And a telephone that really dials.
And that's the spread in the world today isn't it? Agrarian life, Industrial Age and Technology Age coexisting, with some discomfort.
I had some of my taped reports from my television career put on DVDs recently so I could edit and embed them in my blog. Turns out I could play them on my computer, but my Windows Vista Movie Maker program doesn't recognize the format, so I'll need to take them in again and have them re-formatted so I can use them. The technology guy at Office Depot, who recently helped me diagnose the sound problem with my laptop said he used to enjoy reading for pleasure but now has only time enough to read up on all the latest changes to and challenges surrounding software so he can do well at his job.
Will this continue indefinitely, I asked him? Will consumers continue for the next century to be one step behind the changes in technology and constantly running to keep up? What do people on limited incomes do?
Many of the changes are fascinating, I grant you, but some of the changes--in my opinion--make the latest iteration of hardware and software not nearly as useful to me as the last one, or the last one two iterations ago. The book drafts I saved on floppy disks do me zero good anymore. When I went to the Los Altos, California public library to check out a movie on video for my parents (who do have a VCR player I bought them twenty years ago) I discovered all of the movies there were now in DVD format and I went home empty-handed.
Quite a few very intelligent people I know over forty years of age have made a conscious decision to put a hold on their technology learning curve. They don't check their email frequently or they have a mate, partner, or offspring who checks it for them (which, to me, defeats the purpose of it altogether). They don't follow my blog or others like it because they're reading the long weekly articles from the Sunday New York Times , and the New Yorker. They know the hours of their life are limited and they budget them as best they can. I hate it when I hear this from them, but I do understand it.
If I use Map Quest to find a friend's house, I'm asked whey I don't have a GPS. If I have a blog I'm asked why I don't have a podcast and if I have a podcast why I don't have a web cast. If I have a cell phone that stores my entire telephone directory I'm asked why I don't have a Smart Phone or a Blackberry. If I listen to NPR on a radio, I'm asked why I haven't programmed an Ipod with all my favorite tunes. I mean to! I want to! But sometimes I decide I just won't.
Then there is the route of my elderly parents who live in a mid-20th century world with considerable contentment. No cable TV. No DVD player. No clothes drier. No microwave. No computer. No wireless router. No digital camera. No email. No Internet banking. So, none of these devices they don't have, need updating.
In their world, one buys a toaster, repairs it when broken, and keeps it for a lifetime. Nothing is thrown away that might be mulched, recycled, re-heated, donated to kindergarten art classes, or returned for a deposit. There is a newspaper in the morning for learning about the events of the day before and for which there is time taken for discussion and reflection. There is no learning curve on anything except the latest changes in the IRS code. There is--or has been for many years--hard work, time for reading, and long nights of restful sleep. There is also a lot of junk lying around that you can't throw away because it "might be useful one day."
Both ways have their down sides. I toss out coffee-makers that are two years old because I've found a smaller more efficient model. Less clutter at my house. More junk in a landfill. Yet, I feel my intelligent parents have missed a great deal--though my father is now beyond learning, through no fault of his own.
And what of the rest of us? There are times when I think I'd like to have a chip implanted into my brain that will keep me constantly current, with international satellites beaming down the latest directions and FedEx delivering the new devices. Talk about universal health care--I need a universal technology subsidy!
But then I think, gee, money and time are so limited. Become a robo-tecno? Or just go ahead and have a face lift? Oh what a wonderful world.