A modern technological idiot
The Senate Commerce Committee passed a bill on Thursday setting a 2009 deadline requiring digital-only television, rendering analog TV obscure. I’m hopeful that by 2009, I’ll be able to figure out if my TV is digital or analog and if this is an event for which I’ll need to stock up on Cipro, duct tape and bottled water. Technology is not my forte.It used to be that the only opportunity for me to exercise any sort of technological superiority over anyone was to e-mail my Mom a link and then wait for her to call and ask me how to open it. However, she’s now way savvier than me in the high-tech arena because she has TiVo and knows how to use it. I still get confused about which button on the remote control turns on the TV. My friends who have TiVo treat it like a newborn baby. There’s no small amount of awe in their voices when they discover its new features. They brag about its intelligence, argue over who spends more time with it and coo at how its response to their devotion is so fulfilling. Apparently my VCR programming skills are so last century.TiVo is far from the only area where my modern industrial skills are less than advanced.When Napster was all the rage a few years ago, I was eager to join in and illegally download free music. Except I couldn’t figure out how to do it. And while I have since mastered how to buy music online at iTunes, I haven’t really deciphered my 22-month-old 40GB iPod, rendering the whole exercise somewhat useless. But, the iPod does look awfully pretty and white sitting on my desk. The site of its sleek loveliness almost manages to dull the ache that forms in my temples whenever I speculate about what podcasting actually is and wonder if it’s something for which you need a special license. The Blackberry phenomenon confounds me, too. Who wants to schlep around a device only slightly smaller than the Oxford English Dictionary? And other than drug dealers, Martha Stewart on parole and expectant parents and their obstetricians, who wants or needs to be totally reachable 24 hours a day? I miss the old days when you could send someone an e-mail or leave them a message late at night, knowing they wouldn’t get it until the next day. Sadly, it seems as if there’s no longer a sneaky way to drop someone a figurative bombshell and then hide out before they can respond.Last week I finally canceled the America Online account I’ve had – but hardly ever used – for years. It was always my intention to instant message on a regular basis. But the few times I did, I found that carrying on a conversation in cyberspace in less than real time was frustrating and entirely pointless. I ended every one of my IM sessions with phone calls to my messaging buddies when I got bored waiting for their responses. Besides, why is it that my free e-mail account manages to filter out spam, but AOL never used my $4.95 monthly fee to figure out how to block junk mail from entering my inbox?I’ve recently been told by a few people that I’m part of the Text Messaging Generation. (So much for the famed, but now apparently short-lived, Generation X.) I must have been out sick that day because I always have to call the phone company to ask why the screen on my cell is indicating that I have a message when the voice mail operator says my mailbox is empty – it never occurs to me to check my text message inbox. Why is it that when someone is holding a cell phone and wants to ask me something, they don’t just use it to call and ask directly instead of using it to send a written question? My verbal response is guaranteed to be faster and more accurate than the one that requires me to peck and squint like Mr. Magoo at the minuscule alphabet on the cell phone keypad.I’m not completely swathed in the dark ages though. I have a Palm Pilot, a digital camera and apparently my new house has WiFi capability (I just don’t know what that means or how to use it). I wonder, though, if anyone has ever stopped to calculate – despite all the conveniences of modern day technology – at what point the cost of the migraine medicine needed to assuage the headaches brought on by the conveniences exceeds the purchase price of the actual convenience item.Meredith Cohen misses the distinct whirring sound of an answering machine cassette tape rewinding. Questions or comments may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
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