Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Trying not to be a technophobe

Earlier this year MCP and I got our first "smart phones". It was his first ever mobile phone, and my third. I got my first when I moved to the country and was worried about my 1980 Datsun breaking down and stranding me in the middle of Nowhere (Nowhere is a big place in Australia). I got my second in the US as a stranger in a strange land, and used it so infrequently that my $20-a-quarter flat-fee service accumulated to over $200 that's still sitting in my US account.

I love reading about new technology, and I love inventing new technology for my stories. What my mobile phone has taught me is that I've fallen years behind in the actual devices people are using today. Perhaps a lot of X-Gens feel that way about technology in general, but I'll bet most of them know how to Google on their mobile phones. Not me. I had to post endless questions on geek forums to learn how, and it still only works intermittently. Today I learned there's a difference between a widget and an app. I don't know what the difference is, mind you.

In 1983, my siblings and I bought a Commodore 64 computer for $600. It had a no floppy drive (we used a tape deck to load programs), no monitor (we used the TV) and no mouse. Back then I was a tech Jedi master! I could write Basic programs that simulated human conversation and played cricket. (I sense you are impressed.) Over the next 15 years I kept up with all the latest computers, graduating to an Amiga and then a PC. I used Macs at work. I could do anything! In the office I became the go-to person for Microsoft Word and Access questions. Once I got online in the mid-90s I learned everything there was to know about writing HTML web pages and image-editing. I used a dozen different graphics, desktop-publishing and book-keeping programs with ease.

Now... I can't keep up. Not even close. My PC is 7 years old and I'm still on Windows XP (which came out in 2001). I know no more about web pages than I knew in 1997. My graphics editing program of choice puts out a new version every year and I'm still using the same version I had 12 years ago. I haven't played a computer game since Sim City 3. Half the time I screw up the TV programming on my DVR because I can't figure out the menus. I gave up on my MP3 player because I don't know how to make a song list.

And I still think it's outrageous that I pay $30 a month - cheapest plan I could find - for a phone that I use once a week to text MCP to ask what time he'll be home so I can start dinner.


Anonymous said...

A fellow gen-X, I also had a Commodore 64 in the 80's! I loved "Jupiter Lander." I remember the family being annoyed because no one could watch TV while I was on the computer.

The tape deck was cool... I put the tape into a cassette player and listed to it lol!

I don't consider myself a technophobe. I consider myself practical. I taught computers to college freshmen until my youngest was born in 2007.

My cell phone is several years old, and I'm told it's hopelessly out of date. But, like you, I rarely use it. Also, I really only need it for a... you know... PHONE! I take umbrage with the idea that I must replace it every couple of years.

I don't like disposable technology.

Sara Creasy said...

I would've been happy with an out-of-date cell phone as well, but by the time I got around to buying one in Australia, the only choices were smart phones.

On the C64 we played a game called The Hobbit - text-based but with some cool (well, for the time) static graphics. With the Amiga came the joystick, and our favourite game then was Gyruss, a shoot-em-up to the tune of Toccata.

BriteLady said...

I upgraded from a phone-that-only-made-calls to a smartphone a year and a half ago. I resisted for a long time because I never even called anyone on my phone (I can't carry it at work, and it was always buried in my purse at home). But my husband's phone was dead, so we upgraded both.

Once you find a few things that are easier with the smartphone, you might wonder how you lived without it.

Things like getting stuck in a ditch in a snowstorm while out-of-town on vacation, being able to quickly find a local towing service on the web (and dialing by clicking on their phone number), then taking pictures of the debacle (and the crooked horizon), posting them to Facebook and chatting with friends while you wait (that actually happened to us).

Or standing in a store looking at a potential Christmas present, then using the built-in camera to scan the barcode, instantly compare prices against half a dozen other places before buying (I do that one a lot).

I also read a lot of blogs on my phone (this one included) with the Google Reader app :) No fighting the children for access to the family computer that way.

Lynn August Linse said...

I started with an Apple ][ in '79, and invested in the hugely expesive 180Kb single-slide floppy Disk II & 300-baud modem so I could run UCSD Pascal & avoid using our universities CDC with the old 110-baud paper teletype machines.

$30/month? Must be the Asian business model where phones are expensive and service cheap.

My family of 3 has a us$212/month bill in part because of iphone users which require large data/media plans. Actually, I am not counted in the "3" because my Android is paid for by work since we support remote monitoting and control via smart-phone 'apps'.

I think most of the fancy 'smart-phone' features are ... undesirable. Do I realy need instant facebook notication? Do I really want my GPS location auto-sent to a dozen social media sites or twitter? Many of the 'apps' on my phone were installed & protected from deletion by my carrier for potential royalty sales (Best Buy, Blockbuster Video, Google this-n-that, YouTube, B&N books, etc).

So Sara, your Daz3D stuff works fine on your 7 year old PC? My home system changes every few years in part because on my 3D hobby - it is so cool to be able to render a 1600 x 1050 image in under 15 or 30 seconds which would have taken the PC I owned in 2004 (an AMD X64) over 1800 seconds to do. That's over 30 minutes. :)

Sara Creasy said...

Kristi, getting stuck in emergencies was the main reason I bought my first mobile phone, and I did once need it when I drove into a ditch on a country lane. It does make me feel safer to carry one around - but I've never needed it again for that reason (fortunately!).

I like the barcode-scanning idea - is that a free app? (I refuse to pay for additional apps!) I mostly shop online these days and always check thoroughly for the lowest price. Walking into a toy store with an inquisitive 18mo just isn't worth the hassle!

Sara Creasy said...

Lynn, my rendering does take forever but I haven't had any other issues with my ancient PC. Which, incidentally, no longer has a working CD or DVD (thanks to baby girl who loves to push buttons), so I'm dreading the day something does go wrong and I need to reinstall Windows... because I can't.

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