The pen is mightier than the PC | AspenTimes.com
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The pen is mightier than the PC

Janet Urquhart

Technology can’t fool me. It can make a fool of me, though.I’ve concluded the technological gadgetry with which everyone is suddenly both consumed and inescapably dependent is part of an insidious plot to make us stupid and inefficient.We’re tied with a wireless umbilical connection to an array of electronic, digital devices that we can neither use effectively, nor do without.You’d think the programming capabilities of the average cell phone would make us smarter; instead, most of us do exactly two things with our phones – answer it when it rings and talk to somebody, or call somebody and talk to them. In other words – the same thing I did with a black, rotary telephone in 1966.On the other hand, my cell phone is one of those cool flip phones, like a communicator on “Star Trek” – also straight out of 1966.Only back then, I knew my own phone number and those of anyone I was likely to call with any frequency. Now, I’ve made the phone memorize all those numbers and my mind is a blank. I don’t even know my own cell phone number; I have to punch the tiny buttons with my stubby fingers until I can find it in the directory (under M for me).I swear, my phone has something like 1,000 settings I could mess with, judging from the instruction booklet. I’ve actually futzed with about three, and one of them was by accident. I had to find someone more savvy than I to rid my view screen of the ugly streetscape that suddenly appeared there while I was trying to adjust the ring tone. If technology isn’t making me stupid, it’s certainly making me feel that way.I recently acquired an iPod, for free, from a loved one who wound up with an extra one. I’ve never used it, mostly because there’s nothing on it. I don’t know how to download music onto it, and I’m bothered by the fact that the instruction booklet isn’t a booklet at all, but a CD. This means I’m forced to use technology in order to use technology – the kind of double whammy that leaves me feeling as outdated as my Betamax.Judging from something I read the old-fashioned way, in a printed publication, soon we’ll be reading books on portable screens driven by iPod-like devices that hold hundreds of book titles we’ll be downloading off the Web. Tomes like “Gone With the Wind” will be much lighter and take up less room, but in keeping with the times, they’ll be rewritten in blog form: “4 p.m. Barbecue at Twelve Oaks. Fluttered eyelashes at Ashley Wilkes and took instant dislike to a slick Yankee with smoldering eyes and whiskey on his breath.”I was frankly worried that technology would eventually erase the printed word altogether, until I watched a friend of mine make travel arrangements on her computer. She backed up the reservation numbers, flight numbers, hotel address and relevant phone numbers on her computer, cell phone and her Palm Pilot.Then, just to make sure they’d be accessible and couldn’t disappear into cyberspace, she wrote them down on a piece of paper and put it in her wallet.Janet Urquhart apologizes to Margaret Mitchell. Her e-mail is janet@aspentimes.com (Janet’s, not Margaret’s).


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