The Joy of Dissing the Electronic Universe

I would love to read some short pieces (nonfiction, history, sci fi—you pick) about some characters (you?) struggling with their smartphones, laptops, tablets, Bluetooth, GPS, programmable thermostats, TV remotes, Facebook, DVRs, Tivos, email programs, websites, windows 8, Macbooks, and so on.  Bring on the emotion!

I heard recently that anyone born before computers is now an immigrant to the land of all things electronic, while those born to households complete with electronic devices are the true natives to this country.   Can you remember beepers?  The IBM Selectric?  Carbon paper?  Five inch floppy disks?  Pong?  Alien Invaders?  Carmen Santiago?  Long stretchy telephone cords?  Getting up to change the channel for the five options available?  Feel free to rant about your journey on the way to the land of liberty where everyone is free to be everywhere they can manage to be at once.

20 responses to “The Joy of Dissing the Electronic Universe

  1. Dr. Michio Kaku says that by the year 2020 we will have lost the current idea/meaning of the word ‘computer’. Microprocessors will be so small that they will pervade everywhere. Well, the guy is super-brain-smarter-than-me. So, I guess that we have to believe him. Being a programmer a large portion of my working life (so far), I love the idea of the progress. Although, I detest the invasion of my privacy. Shoot, Google knows more about me than many of my friends. Probably, just short of my wife. Text Messaging, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. I try to steer clear of these things. I scoff at a Social Media. Shouldn’t you have a single place in life where “they” can’t get to you?

    As a kid, I could run off into the woods and hide from everyone. I bet in the future they will have you tracked down and figure out a way to send you a coupon for a tent. Come on! I just wanted to listen to the wind blow into those trees for a bit. Or just walk down the street. I don’t need to be sold the new-fangle-coffee-sensation just because I walked a block nearer to your building.

    I just recently read a book by Ernest Cline titled Ready Player One. It is set in the year 2035. You know post-something-the-other dystopian society, that in this case almost everyone is connected to a common virtual reality (VR). But get this – The creator was an 80’s fanatic. So, the entire book is pretty much 80’s references. Lots of video games and TV shows. In the case of Mr. Cline’s story everyone spends their time in the VR world and not in real life.

    And finally, with all this new technology, are we getting smarter? I am not so certain. If you get a chance, watch a movie titled Idiocracy (2006). I warn you, it is really crude. But, I found it to be funny. I also found it so close to the truth it was a little eerie as well.

    Wow. That was longer than I expected. I will stop writing now.

    Happy Father’s Day!

    • Nope, technology is making us dumber. We have to do less and think less. Everything is done for us in advance, like an entire species of spoiled children, especially imaging. More imaging, less reading, less imagination. The symbols C, A, and T, look nothing like the furry little animal chasing mice around. And the symbols of H, O, U, S, and E, don’t look anything like the place where we live. Much of the work that our brain used to do is done in advance; less cortical connections, less synaptic energy, ergo, dumber. Sorry about the negative post, I am the anti-TV guy.

      • Nope, technology is making us dumber. We have to do less and think less. Everything is done for us by modern technology. We are like an entire species of spoiled children, especially walking. More riding in cars and less walking and smelling the roses. Also communication. No more face to face, we use telephones to talk to each other now. And what happened to sitting around in our parlors with friends and discussing issues of the day. Now it is the radio taking over our lives. They are even talking about replacing train travel with aeroplanes. We will be like zombies flying across the sky. Much of the work our brain used to do is being replaced by all this technology. Less cortical connections, less synaptic energy, ergo, dumber. We are doomed. It is a good thing everything worth inventing has already been created.
        Sincerely, Justice T. Cornwall, Pasadena, California, June 17, 1922.

      • Cheryl aka Shaddy

        Unfortunately, the truth is often negative.

      • galelikethewind

        I hope all of you realize that my post after Waldo’s was a parody.
        Not meant to be negative…more like same old, same old.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      Technology is loaded with scary possibilities. I liked your premonition that before long, a walk into the woods could trigger receipt of an ad for a tent.

  2. An awkward traveler in the world of digital technology, I occasionally drift into a melancholy mood with thoughts of what was: The wonderful anticipation of waiting for the vacuum tubes on our Dumont Television to warm up, the comforting hum of the radio, as I turned the Bakelite dial inviting distant voices into my bedroom.
    A sense of wonder and appreciation is what I miss most in this speedy of daily “new and better.”

    Ann, allow me to offer this as a corollary to this post. Feel free to offer it as a writing prompt if you’d like.

  3. My head officially exploded this morning while watching my morning news channel. This is not fiction. The cable television industry is going to be offering a cable box that will have a camera installed in it. The camera will be able to watch you, in real time, and this will enable advertisers to judge how receptive you are to certain products and messages. Then the ad people will send your tv just the things that you would be prone to buy. The executives at the cable companies assure their customers that they would not be watching you for any other reason than to be more effective with their advertisements. For now, this is on a voluntary basis only.

    The news then moved to a story that a Priest has invented an Ap for your smart phone that will allow you to text in your confession if the Priest is unavailable.

    I am going to open a Drive-Through Communion kiosk, for those times when you need forgiveness, but are just to darn busy to enter an actual church. I’ll call it “The Rip and Dip”.

  4. Not very short, but definitely a struggle:

    Of Sharks and Rainbows and the iPad 2

    When I delivered the bags and boxes of mail to the small post office in Hope, Alaska, one day, I met Diane, the new substitute postal clerk.
    “This is my first day on my own,” she said. “Bear with me. I’m definitely on a learning curve.”

    Ah, the learning curve. Such a gentle term to describe how to chart the learning process. It begins at the bottom and rises, usually quickly, as you understand and import the basics. Then, like an arcing rainbow, it curves sweetly to its apex and culminates in a metaphorical pot of gold.

    At that point, you’re ready to venture forth into the world armed with new knowledge and skills, prepared to awe everyone.

    Crappettiola! Serious crapettiola. Let me tell you how it happens in the real world. I’ll use myself as an example, myself and my iPad2.

    My iPad finally arrived after I waited several months for backorders. When the clerk at Best Buy placed it in my hands, I said, “I sure hope it comes with instructions.”

    “No,” said the young man, “It’s all online.”

    “But I don’t even know how to turn this thing on.” He showed me where the black button was that gave life to the dark screen.

    I gave him my best, gray-haired, widow-woman look. “Then what?”

    I’m not very adept at interpreting facial expressions, but I was pretty sure I saw a generous dose of oh-god-help-me-get-out-of-this, along with a hint of pity. I’d been down this road before with technology geeks.

    When I got home, I figured out how to charge the iPad’s battery. Then I waited anxiously for it to finish so I could start building my learning curve.
    That learning curve soon resembled a stock market graph on its worst day. I decided I’d wait until I had more time to delve into “The iPad 2 for Dummies” and “The Missing iPad Manual for iPad 2”, both of which I’d purchased before I left Anchorage with the new tablet.

    I did manage to set up an account with iTunes which was necessary before I could purchase any apps. Then I promptly forgot my user name and password.

    As the summer rolled along and the guilt built exponentially, I decided that an up-coming stint of house-sitting in Halibut Cove would be the perfect time to become an iPad2 expert. A whole month, just me and Gerri the Cat, no other humans around. By the end of that month, my learning curve would arc sweetly, as beautiful as any rainbow ever seen.

    I would take it with me to Churchill, Manitoba, in November an blog skillfully about the polar bears staring at me through “bear proof” windows. My photos would jump from the screen, my words astound, all would be well with the world. Even the polar bears would be impressed.
    I got the iPad2 from its place of rest along with the Dummies book and planted myself in the living room ready to begin a smooth sweep up the learning curve.

    Two hours later, I had a free version of Angry Birds on the iPad. I also had a blood pressure graph that resembled a stock market graph on its best day ever and blood about to squirt from my eyes and ears.

    The confounded iPad looked for all the world like it was frozen. I’d get a window (oops) message box on the screen and couldn’t get rid of it. I turned it on and off a dozen or more times, but every time the iPad came back on that wretched window message box was still there.

    I called Apple’s “award-winning” customer service. It was closed.

    I tried online. My 90-day software assistance had expired a few days before. I called Best Buy and was on hold for 40 minutes before I gave up. I called a friend in Hawaii who had an iPad, but she’d never experienced my problem.

    I hung up the phone and pushed myself away from the computer. That exposed my left knee.

    I pictured myself holding the iPad horizontally with a hand on each edge and lowering it smartly across that knee. Fortunately, I remembered that I had to go to Anchorage the next day. I could take it to Best Buy and get some answers.

    The next day, I was about 40 miles from Anchorage when a sneaky thought crossed my mind. The young fellow had showed me how to turn on the iPad. He hadn’t shown me how to turn it off. I looked at my cell phone and had an idea. I reached for the tablet.

    I turned it on, then held the button down for a couple seconds. Yes! I had just learned how to turn it off! AHA! I hadn’t been turning it off when I fought with it the night before; I’d simply been putting it to sleep. Of course the window was still there when I woke it up. I did not take the iPad into Best Buy.

    You should note that I’m not mentioning how I discovered the talented “home page” button.

    There’s more, much more, but I’ll spare you. That night I’d managed to download Pages (83 minutes to download), a photo editing program, some more Angry Birds and one app I bought by mistake.

    There is no panoramic, sweeping curve in my learning process. With my sudden spikes of insight, the broad plateaus where I accomplish nothing and my frequent face-plants, my learning graph looks suspiciously like the crenelated wall of a fortress.

    At other times, the saw-toothed jaw of a shark comes to mind.

    • galelikethewind

      My 90 year old Mom would be proud of you, learning where the Home Button was after just a few weeks. She learned Windows XP at 83, graduated to an Ipad 2 years ago, and mastered it in a matter of days by listening to instructions from my 33 year old niece. She has developed Macular Degeneration and the features of her Ipad that allow for large yext, zooming in on web pages, etc, are a Godsend.
      I’m quite proud of her.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      I can totally relate to what you’ve written. I’m not a moron but I sure feel like one some days when I struggle with difficult things that I’m quite sure are truly simple if you know the ropes.

  5. Macbook, iPad, iPhone, iPod, I sometimes have them all in front of me, running, at one time, while reading a paperback book, and glancing every so often at what my husband is watching on tv. I think I might have attention deficit. Seriously, and I am serious, this is how technology has taken over my life. Has it made me dumber? I think not. I think back to the days when in order to learn something I was curious about I had to drive to the library and look it up in an encyclopedia or reference it first in the card catalog, write down the number, and go hunt for it on the shelf. Too much trouble and bother to be interested in learning. Today, in my mid-life years, I love learning. I love reading. I often have my book of choice, either on iPad or in paperback, in my lap with my laptop at my side for quick reference when I want to research something I’m reading.

    Technology has also proved invaluable in keeping in touch with my family. I have four children, three of whom live cross country and love to travel overseas. Last winter one daughter backpacked through Asia. Today, another is in Amsterdam. They can keep in touch with a quick text message or in person through the miracle of Skype. It sure puts my heart and mind to rest to be able to keep in touch with them and know they are safe. Yes, all this technology certainly can invade our privacy. But a lot of privacy depends on ourselves. How much information do we really need to put out there on Facebook. And have we taken the time to check our privacy settings? Do we need our GPS turned on on our phones at all times or just when we are looking for the nearest Mexican restaurant? Technology is taking off at warp speed and shows no signs of slowing. I say we jump on the speeding vessel of technology and embrace it rather than fight it.

    • galelikethewind

      You and I are on the same page/screen, Carol. You expressed my sentiments exactly. I am always shouting out “what a wonderful age we live in! ” when I am able to hold the equivalent of the Encyclopedia Britanica in my pocket, and find the answer to anything in a few seconds.
      Also I remember taking photos with film:
      1. Purchase & Put proper film in camera for particular light.
      2. Frame and take a few photos.
      3. When you finish roll, then take to processor.
      4. Wait a week.
      5. Pay for developing.
      6. Finally discover how your photos turned out.
      7. To share with family, have additional prints made, send off by mail.

      Compare that to clicking a digital shot with Iphone & sending out instantly to family.
      No contest.
      Thanks for your post, and you are spot on about privacyvas well.

    • Once I know what to do to operate electronic devices, I’m a happy camper. Until then, they make me crazy!!

      You seem to have a handle on all that stuff.

  6. Electronic devices. Does a camera fit in that category?

    If so, read this. If no, disregard it.

    My husband ordered me a new Fuji camera off HSN. It arrived yesterday. I opened the box and laid everything on the kitchen table. I tried to attach the strap and couldn’t get it to slide into the slot. I tried to attach the lens cover but it needed to hook onto the strap. I put the batteries in and tried to turn the camera on. Nothing. I became rather depressed and walked away.

    Later, I was clearing the camera mess from the table when I noticed a tiny slip of paper lying among the pile of instructions and CDs. I studied it. It was a correction to the original instruction book. The correction showed a different arrangement of the alkaline batteries. Well, for crying outloud, I said to myself.

    I turned the camera on and it actually came on!!! But by then, it was late in the day and I was too tired to go any further with it.

    Can you tell that I don’t deal with any kind of frustration? Maybe that ability will come with age. 🙂

  7. Instructions? What are those?

  8. The NSA has asked me to pass on how interested they are in all these comments.

    • I hope the NSA thinks all Americans are this tech-challenged. Then, when push comes to shove, our nieces and nephews and grandchildren will whip their butts. Tech-wise, that is. As for us older folks, well, there’s that Obamacare iceberg for us.

  9. It’s been a miserable, cold, rainy, and cloudy spring in Minnesota. Last Friday morning, when I walked out of Dakota County Library, I was so bamboozled by the seventy-five degree temperature, no rain, no clouds, birds singing, and the sun dappling the sidewalk, that I walked right by the parking lot (only a half block away). Just kept on walking…

    Now, if I had been listening to an iPod, or texting, or talking on my cellphone, I would not have felt all those things. I would have missed the moment. And that would have been sad. I think that’s happening all the time now with these portable communication gadgets. People addicted to these devices are no longer in the world, they are adjacent to it.

    • Diane
      You’re absolutely right. However there is hope. We have to learn to avoid distraction. In her book The Creative Spirit Learn it and Use It for Life, Twyla Tharp talked about dieting for creative health. We do it all the time. Spending getting out of control? We stop carrying the credit card. Want some quiet time at home? Turn the phone off , kill the TV, She suggests these: Go a week without looking in a mirror You’ll be forced into thinking about what you do and less about how you look. Stay away from clocks. Stop relying on them to measure the passage of time. Stop reading newspapers for a week. You don’t want that for longer; it will breed ignorance but for a short time i’s like a vacation on an island. You’ll probably gain more than you’ll lose. Stop speaking so much you’ll recognize the difference between what’s worth saying and what isn’t. The perfect editor for the creative soul. Essentially she thinks a retreat from these things ransoms us from the jails we put ourself in.

      We get all these things and they don’t provide as much help as we provide them with our service and our time.

      Remember RUR? Rossum’s Universal Robots It’s here.

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