Friday, October 19, 2012

Electronic technology -- friend and foe

A friend mentioned that her children had bought her a computer in 1995 but she has yet to turn it on.  She won’t touch it.  Computers are not for her.

People talk about aliens, immigrants and natives when it comes to the modern technological world.  My friend is an alien— an unfriendly alien, at that. 

Aliens have no use for computers, cell phones, and all the other social media and gadgets available.  They wouldn’t have these in the house for love or money. Too scary. Too risky.  Too difficult to learn.

Immigrants are people who did not grow up with electronic technology.  Digital is a second language to them.  They print out emails and file them in a manila folder. They phone friends to tell them about an interesting website.  They use cell phones, digital cameras, Facebook, Twitter, pagers, and the countless  other gadgets hesitatingly. They are always an add-on, not integral to their thinking,  mentioned one speaker. 

Then there are the natives who were born with a cell phone clutched in their little  hands. They are as comfortable with texting and twittering as with their own skin. They can program anything.  Diagnose any computer problem.  

However.....  Some in this category, I have observed,  hardly know how to write using cursive or  add a long column of figures without a calculator or make change when someone gives them $11.62 and the bill is $6.62.  

I place myself  in the immigrant  category, elated when something works well, in the depths of despair when  some electronic equipment won’t work, like this morning.  My printer gave up the ghost. I think. There’s a light but no action.  And I had just put in a new cartridge. Now what do I do?
As an immigrant  I get edgy when my children push me towards  a head-first encounter with another piece of new technology. I want to shout, “Haven’t I learned enough?  Why this? I can’t take it into the grave with me!” 

When some computer failure  happens I think of my  parents who were immigrants to Canada in 1923 from the Ukraine in Europe.  They spoke English as a second language, sometimes haltingly,  never quite comfortable with it.  At times they longed for the Old Country, for its more comfortable way of living, for old friends and foods. They probably felt uneasy when they first used a telephone or a flush toilet. I recall my father mentioning seeing peanut butter on the table on the ship across the Atlantic.  He thought it was mustard and put it on his meat.  

I prefer books made of paper, bound, lined up in rows on shelves. They are my friends. I like my photographs in albums, classified by time or family, or not at all – not in an hand-held gadget.  

I like letters in files so that I can find them in a hurry. I like my financial records in binders,  at my finger tips.  I like my bank statements in print so I can use them easily for income tax purposes.  

But my son tells me I can do all of this more quickly, more easily on my computer.  I’m from Missouri.  Show me.  Little  by little, I yield.  I groan when I play Words with Friends and my opponent comes up with a word I never heard of.  I learn I can make up words, test them, and if the WF lexicon accepts them, the points are mine.  But what are these strange combinations of letters my opponents use? No word I ever saw before-- QAT,  YIN, DI, QI, CRED. 

If I texted, what would I say to someone 50 to 100  times a day?  Who would that someone be? 

And even Facebook, that entity worshiped by thousands, perhaps millions, only occasionally yields more than trivia. Although I enjoy the pictures.  Why would I want to live my life in the open?  How do these people manage to have so much time on their hands?  

I wouldn’t want to return to only snail mail – the waiting for the postman day after day, hoping for a letter.  

But I know I will never be a native in  the electronic world.  So back to my printer problem.   Help!

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