Technoloss is threatening to prevent me from communicating, listening and watching. It occurred without me even being aware of the changes. I was ahead of the curve until this past decade. Lack of understanding the terms and the icons is shutting me down. How do I get over the mindset that it is too late for me to learn as no one I know is patient enough to delve into my lack of understanding. It’s not a matter of just do it. I don’t even know what I need or why I need it. Do I keep my head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t matter-that I can keep on doing the little bit that I know to sufficiently function?
I was born before televisions were part of a household. I was six when a black and white T.V. came home. There were three channels that the rooftop antennae pulled in. One channel was local and had a good picture and sound. The other two stations were sixty miles away and could be watched if one ignored the snow or the double images that appeared. There was Walter Cronkite appearing during our dinner with numbers as to those killed in Vietnam and gruesome pictures that we watched while we ate steak and mashed potatoes. The potatoes were fixed with our only small household appliance-an electric mixer. Then came November 1963…three days of nonstop television watched across the country and perhaps the world. Tears were shed as we watched forever touched by the little boy saluting his father as the cortege rolled by.
Cable became part of our living room in 1967 when a color television in a big oak cabinet arrived for Christmas. I was fourteen by then and had a transistor radio, clock-radio and a one speaker record player. I could work them all. The transistor radio brought stations from all over the United States and I could listen to it under my pillow at night, for so long as the battery held out, without parental interference. That battery was a 9-volt used today in so many smoke detectors. To me it is still a transistor radio battery which causes confusion when I ask a twenty-something clerk where I can locate one in a store. The clock radio was wonderful and I still envision it as my favorite childhood gift. It had a lever that would let me listen to music for up to 60 minutes as a I drifted off to sleep. Many a night the lever would be flipped several times as I fought sleep and enjoyed the music of Herman’s Hermits, the Monkees and the Beatles. I could hear the words sung and knew the words of most songs. Life was good. I belonged. The record player was easy to operate. Stack the records four or five high and listen hoping that the needle was in sync with the next record dropped or that the needle didn’t stick on a bad place on the record. The color television with cable was like being at the movies-like the days my father spoke of news reels bringing news of World War II at the movies only in real time. More tears…Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy—sitting up all night holding vigil to hear whether Bobby Kennedy would live. Peace demonstrators were shown being beaten and pulled off to jail. Republican parents who supported the President influenced my thoughts of the war being just.
I received a manual typewriter for Christmas in the mid-1960’s and used it until 1977, when I purchased an electric typewriter. I learned to hunt and peck and ruined any chances of typing without looking at the keys. My lack of proficiency with those things mechanical had begun. In the early 70”s there were college term papers typed on erasable paper and copies made through use of carbon paper. Lines would tend to have a blur with all the erasures and retypes. Erasable paper was a gift to the non-proficient typist-just use the pink penciled shaped eraser and brush the eraser rubbings from the paper being careful not to rub too hard under threat of the appearance of a irreparable hole in the paper. I made it through college and law school happy as a lark with this technology.
For graduation from high school in 1971 my uncle gave me the latest in recording technology-a General Electric cassette recorder and player. It was two inches deep and six inches wide and tall, awkward to carry due to its size and weight and my fear of it being dropped. Students weren’t using recorders yet in college at least in my classes as there was a long corded mike that had to be used and caused front seat sitting to record the lecture. It worked best for playing cassette tapes of Neil Diamond and Carol King…tunes could be carried around and were not limited to the record player. My first car was purchased in 1977, new for $2800.00, and I am embarrassed to say it was a Gremlin with an Audi engine that blew at 55,000 miles. But I could work everything on that car including the cassette player I had installed from Radio Shack with the only options being push the tape in to play, hit eject to remove and an arrow button to hear the other side of the tape. Twenty-somethings are at a loss when I speak of having to push my left foot on a clicker in the car floor to change the headlights from dim to bright and back again. It was all I knew and was the way it was done even though now with there being a switch on the signal arm of a vehicle for such changes, it seems ill designed and cumbersome. Yet, I could do it.
The 1980’s came. I had a law office with an electric typewriter still using erasable paper and carbon paper. I changed jobs in 1981 and went to work for the Attorney General. There were magnetic (mag) card typewriters that recorded documents that allowed for drafts to be proofread and changes made without the secretary becoming frazzled and ticked. I couldn’t work the machines, didn’t have the foggiest notion how they worked but loved that I was free to make changes while brief writing, with cut and paste as an option. Convoluted arguments could be made right with the moving of a paragraph. Copy machines at the office were incredible. Gone was the machine of the 70’s that copied one page at a type and required the operator to collate the pages by hand. The machine did 20 copies up to 50 pages each and stapled the finished product. I could work that machine or at least could start the process. Should it run out of paper, I could add such, but if the red wrench appeared I was up the creek and scolded for using the machine. I was not going to stick my arm in the machine to add toner, and God forbid that the paper be jammed, even if the machine pad showed the location, below my pay grade…even through 2011 when I retired.
In 1981 my husband bought a Texas Instrument personal computer that used a television screen for a monitor. We thought it was big time as it was a step past playing Pong and Packman on a television. An Apple II was out of our price range although in retrospect it was a mistake to purchase the TI. We were a little early in purchasing a computer. Our first technological mistake in our young marriage. In the mid 80’s we purchased our first PC. I was in love. I could type briefs at home and be with our daughter while I worked. I learned only to use it as a word processor and remained that way until the upgrade of the computer with it having a modum connecting to the telephone. Local bulletin boards were available for e-mail. Then the internet arrived. No one could telephone while the modum was used but sometimes the call would knock the user off the internet. It was so rudimentary but wonderful. I had pretty much kept up with the 80’s even though I was a Nintendo failure unlike my addicted mother who would game all night swinging donkey kong to higher levels. I could operate what I needed and had no qualms about that which I could not do.
Then I changed jobs. It was 1987 and the secretaries still used typewriters. Back was the animosity incurred if a line needed changed on page 1 as the whole document might need retyped. I did a lot of work from home using Word Perfect 4.1 which was operated through command codes. I could do enough to get the product done…having never learned how macros worked-only hearing about them and how a sentence or paragraph that was used in a form Order could be inserted with the use of a couple keystrokes. I changed jobs again in 1993…still had the command code computer system but my secretary was elated as she was moving from an office that only had a typewriter. Then several years later the machines were upgraded…gone were the command codes…the mouse had arrived. I could use the word processor and play solitaire-that was all I needed to knoe.
I worked as a judge. I didn’t have a court reporter but was required to operate a cassette player with a paddle microphone. My secretary and I discovered that my predecessor in the job didn’t know there was a battery in the paddle arm as when the battery had died when he was recording a hearing, all the rest of his recordings he made were blank. I learned to run that machine and keep the batteries charged but the machine was simple to use with play, record and rewind keys. Music had changed in the 1990’s but I was allright with that as I received the hand me down cd players and walkman’s from my daughter and could use them. I pretty much could understand the icons and loved the five CD player that I received. Then came the CD recorder for the office that recorded not only sound but video. How could I listen to the parties, make rulings and think about the hearing while having to work this machine. Easy, I was the only judge in the State to get the machine off the bench and over to the table of the bailiff using the excuse that it wasn’t professional for a judge to run machinery and that I couldn’t see over the monitor if it were on the bench. Great for me; worked until my retirement; no remorse on my part.
I noticed my first lapse with technology when VCR’s were replaced with CD player/recorders. Gone were the days of play, rewind and eject. Icons had emerged. I was near 40 by then and couldn’t see the icons especially when bending over to read such so near to the floor. My daughter told me the icons were intuitively obvious when I asked for help. Here lies my plight. I am now 58 and still have no concept of icons be they on I-Pods (which I can work for a couple days if I keep refreshing my memory and am at a loss as to how to recharge since I haven’t used it for a year). Unfortunately I am still buying CD’s as I have no concept of downloading tunes. My smart phone is smarter than I; I can use it as a phone if the light is right and as an alarm clock. Do I remember to carry it, to have it on if do carry it, or even know where it is in the house? Not so much. My daughter flips hers out when I ask a question and reminds me that my phone will do this too. Since I don’t understand how she did it, I can’t ask questions about learning the keystrokes she just entered. I could just get a big keyed phone only from AARP as I am devoid of understanding the smart phone technology .
I can’t work the remote on the television; neither can my sixty something retired electrical engineer husband. I don’t understand the icons; he can’t see them. We watch the channels presented and can work the digital video recorder. As for ordering a movie, we get lost in a loop and have to call the cable provider help line. I bought my husband a MP3 player for Christmas. Our son-in-law immediately asked what tunes my husband was going to download. He seemed stunned that I had purchased a MP3 player with pre-recorded memory cards. There were 2,000 tunes at his disposal. I had found another way around technology.
The blue ray player took a year to connect to the television. It’s okay because neither my husband nor I understand the term “blueray” except for its supposed to be a better picture than with a dvd, with our daughter informing us we could never tell the difference between blueray and dvd as we don’t see well enough. Write off needing to understand blueray as we are just blind old fogeys not needing to be in the know.
I realize at this juncture that I am ahead of some senior citizens as I can use a digital camera (if I don’t shake too badly), I can use the computer as a word processor and am quite capable of using the internet as an entertainment and a research tool. I cannot load pictures from the camera nor add any programs be it on MAC or PC. I have trouble toggling from site to site and am apt to lose the article I am composing while searching for a word in an on-line dictionary. I want to use my I-pod and am fearful that I will have to ask my daughter who gave it to us three years about how to charge it and make the circular thing find my tunes and play them. This is hard for me to do…again I am going to hear that it is intuitively obvious. I was a judge who used intuition as a large part of my job in family court. My intuition worked pretty well; eighteen years on the bench and few reversals. My twenty-something daughter is one of a few of her friends who could tell time on a regular clock face. She grew up in the digital age with icons that obviously mean something. I grew up in the age before television remote controls, with the turning of a knob with the channels printed on it being obvious. Is it too late for me? What technology is coming? How will I cope? Where do I get help? Is it from technology for dummies and at what year would I begin? I am relatively intelligent. I want to be able to look so for any grandchildren I might have. I don’t want to hear a child ask mommy, “What is wrong with Grandma?”as if I have Alzheimer’s. Both my daughter and son-in-law work in IT and cannot understand what I don’t understand. I believe there may be a reference source for me…if some other poor soul has taken the time to answer my icon-phobic problems on U-Tube if I can remember to stay on point and not start watching silly animal video clips. There is just so much on U-Tube and it is so funny!
My Kindle is waiting. It is time for me to read and think back to the times of Lincoln and candlelight and books. My Kindle is so close to being a book. It has simple commands of back a page and forward a page. Icons can wait for another day when I again feel the loss caused by technology and have the strength and courage to venture forward. In the meantime I would rather read a book as to me words are intuitively obvious.