Techno-Freakia

by Nancy

Last winter, the dh decided one of us had to “join the 21st century.” He didn’t want to be the one, so he gave me an iPad for Christmas. This was an odd gift, by the way, from a man who views any new form of technology with suspicion and once phoned me at work to ask how he could make his document’s pages have numbers.

I was initially not sure what I would use it for. I have a laptop. I have a cellphone. I need this because . . . ?

However, the iPad has grown on me. I can now read ebooks, something that was not previously possible because our Macs run the old Apple hardware (PowerPC chips instead of Intel) and so cannot be updated to run Amazon’s Kindle app for Mac. I like carrying a bunch of books around with me in very little space. I’ve bought new books to read and old favorites for when I’m away from home and just want to read a book I know I like, sort of like talking to an old friend.

I had surgery (nothing for anyone to be concerned about) in the Spring and spent a good bit of time lying down in the next few weeks. Checking email on something I could hold up in front of my face, like a book, was extremely convenient. So was surfing the web. The iPad proved to be very convenient for these purposes as well as for reading. I suspect it will also be a nice alternative to hunting for radio stations when I’m on a long trip. I can just set the iPod function to “shuffle,” turn the volume up, and have music I like, without the bother of headphones or hunting around every hundred or so miles.

It has not been an unmixed blessing, though. Contrary to what the people at the store told the dh, it was not “plug and play” because the system file on my Mac was not sufficiently updated. The iPad would not condescend to recognize OS X 10.4.9 The only computer the iPad would talk to was the boy’s, and he was not crazy about having my music selections (let alone the books) on his hard drive. Now the boy’s computer is dying. It needs replacement capacitors, whatever those are.

So I’m trying to get the laptop updated to the minimum level the iPad will tolerate, which is about as far as the laptop can be updated because the newer system versions require the Intel chip (I also cannot open .docx files with my older version of Word and cannot load the newer version because of the same hardware issues). I was just lucky the Apple online store still had that version of OS X in stock. However, it’s possible this version of OS X may not like Word 2004 for Mac. Which happens to be the format for my mss. All of them.

Speaking of mss., typing is also a challenge due to the iPad’s compressed keyboard, which is highly sensitive and requires switching among three different keyboards to reach all available keys. But I’ve adjusted well enough that I can now jot story notes and email them to myself.

Though I have yet to figure out how to make it acknowledge a document downloaded to it. I tried with a book ms., and it sort of went “poof” and vanished. Mail gave me the option to open it in ebooks during the couple of seconds it was purportedly downloading, but why would I want to do that? It’s a document. It’s not, you know, a book. Yet.

Apple used to be consistently backwards compatible, but that no longer seems to be the case. And I find myself feeling left behind.

And now, of course, there is the iPad2, which some banditas have and love. I have the plain old original model that you have to turn on and off manually instead of just opening or closing the cover, and I do not plan to upgrade it anytime soon. I’m just getting used to this one. Why would I want to start over again?

As some of you know, I worked in my college’s radio station and even earned a 3rd Class Radio Operator license (which I think is no longer given). I knew the basics of setting up equipment to record and play back. I can set up DVDs, game systems, and such. Yet the more complex computers get, the more confusing I find them.

My cell phone is just a phone. No camera. No WYSIWYG keyboard because I’d rather talk than text most of the time. I’d like the phone to play the Stargate theme as a ringtone, but I have no idea how to make it do that. When I have time, I’m going to take it to the store and make the clever people there deal with this issue.

Also, it fits my hand comfortably. “Smart” phones, like the iPhone, generally are too wide for me. And my phone has a flip top, sort of like a Star Trek communicator, which automatically makes it preferable to all phones without this feature.

And it works just fine, despite being dropped on the tile floor of a Burger King somewhere in western Virginia, an impact that caused the back to come off. I put the back on again, and the phone worked. Okay, so the green light doesn’t consistently stay lit when the phone is turned on, but the phone does everything I need it to.

I’m still ahead of the dh, who calls his cell phone “an accessory for my glove compartment” and resists all of the boy’s efforts to teach him how to charge it, but I’m light years behind the boy, who texts, plays online games, surfs the web, and listens to music all at the same time (though not all on his phone, mostly on his computer).

A friend once gave us a very nice food processor for Christmas, thinking the dh, who loves to cook, would find it handy. He found it intimidating, with all its many functions and blades. Since it had to do with cooking, I wasn’t especially vulnerable to its lure, either. We finally (discreetly) gave it away, to someone who couldn’t wait to start, slicing, dicing, pureeing and whatever else it would do.

I used to sew. My machine would sew forward or backward. With a special attachment, it would make a buttonhole. That’s all it did. That was enough.

Some people’s machines will zig-zag, bind edges, hem, monogram, and perform assorted other functions. You couldn’t pay me to touch one. I might end up with a zig-zagged, monogrammed buttonhole in a hem or some such.

I like technology, in general. I’m grateful for electric lights and running water and air conditioning and waffle irons and washing machines and vacuum cleaners and movie projectors and telephones and automobiles and airplanes (and electric mixers on those rare occasions when I bake) and many other forms of technology.

But technology that needs, but refuses, to talk to other technology makes me think we’re coming to the age when machines can be the boss of us. Like in Terminator.

Where’s Michael Biehn when you need him?

So how do you feel about technology? Love it? Hate it? Fall somewhere in between? What’s the last gadget you tried to use and either loved or loathed? Do you know anyone who’s as reluctant to use a cellphone as my dh? Have you ever had your computer refuse to talk to your printer?

I brought home a package of books from RWA, and it’s going to one of today’s commenters (prize post will go up Sunday, July 31).

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