Thursday, January 24, 2013

Grandma, what's a pencil?

I realize that if it weren't for technology, I wouldn't be writing this column on my new laptop. But does it all have to be so complicated?

It seems as if every day there's a new gadget I should upgrade to -- and then learn how to use. I think I spend more time reading manuals and calling tech support than I do actually using the gizmo.

I'm starting to sound like my grandmother, but things were simpler when I used a pencil and paper to write articles and stories. If the lead broke, I sharpened the pencil. And when the notepad was full, I started a new one.

Back then I never lost a year's worth of work because the notebook "crashed." I never had to call tech services in order to learn how to operate a writing utensil. Even when I "upgraded" to a typewriter ('member typewriters?), it only took a few minutes to figure out how to put words on paper ('member paper?). In fact, the most complicated thing about my old typewriter was changing the ribbon, but I managed without ever having to call The Geek Squad for help.

I just bought myself an iPad mini, mainly because, like Goldilocks, my iPad is too big, my iPhone is too small and the iPad Mini feels "just right." Besides, it's cute, lightweight and fits in my purse. Unfortunately, I've had it for a week and still can't download my mail, surf the Internet or play Spider Solitaire.

I suppose there's an "app" for all that, since there doesn't appear to be a manual, but I can't find it. I've already got some 50 other apps, including Instagram, Crackle, Zombie Café, Mirror, Shazam, Dropbox, Beat the Traffic, Talking Tom, Crack Screen, Pandora, Sound Effects and Mickey's Club House. I just don't have time to figure out how to use them.

I've been on the phone for days calling AT&T, Yahoo, my techie nephew and my son who thinks I'm an idiot, to no avail. I've been to Best Buy's Geek Squad, Apple's Genius Bar and some random guy who was holding a cellphone at Starbucks but with no luck.

I'm still trying to figure out how to use the four remotes for the TV/DVD/X-Box/Whatever. (We used to have six or seven, but we lost those.) Plus we have something like 500 channels. I only use half a dozen of them, but the rest are available to me, so I can watch low-tech shows like "Honey Boo Boo," "Swamp People" and "Antiques Road Show," featuring typewriters. I haven't seen my old friends in years, but I know every detail of their lives, thanks to Facebook, Twitter and TMI.

Things are only going to get worse. Coffee makers will become more complicated as we try to make our own double-shot decaf mocha frappachinos without an IT degree. When the post office finally shuts down, I'll have to learn how to Photoshop my own stamps, find an app to weigh my letters and figure out how to send packages via email. And if I want to write a letter the old-fashioned way -- with pen and paper -- I'll have to learn how to use a stylus and e-pad.

I might as well get a degree in computer science. No problem. I'm sure there's an app for that.


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