Luddite’s Lament

I read an article on Sunday about how many of our technological marvels are becoming so complex that people are beginning to balk at buying and or using them. It was like music to my ears, since I have been feeling like a curmudgeon, cum Luddite, and quite a bit out of touch with the latest gadgets. I have had this feeling for a few years now, that the technology was going to make some quantum leap and I would eyeball the chasm and opt out of the whole game. Right now I resist the cell phone and the palm pilot, ( even though if those geek types that create them would make a palm pilot bigger and a lot more attractive, more like a book , I might be tempted ). I do like learning how to use my own computer, and still get a kick out of creating documents with great graphics and sending emails with cool stationary and music attached. But honestly, I can see the font on the monitor, telling of the day when I officially join the curmudged Luddites in earnest. It wasn’t always this way. My boys grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, and I joined them in the wonder of the rise of the computer revolution. I remember slaving over middle son’s Commondor 64, (the first computer in our household ) entering 150 lines of code to get a program that produced tones so I could tune my guitar. And we used to play this goofy Indiana Jones game for hours on end, and then when you actually got through all the levels, the ending payoff sequence would never work! Which precipitated our first call to tech support….. we never got through to a real person as I recall. We upgraded, struggled with learning how to install new software, which used to be quite an undertaking before the wizards and then, OH MY GOSH, youngest son started opening up the CPU and sticking things in slots……! While I looked on feeling like I was witnessing open heart surgery, and the only thing I could think of was, “Put the thing in and put that other thing back on or something really awful is going to happen !” The whole experience early on was much like solving complex puzzles, something humans have been enjoying for millennia. ( Who can describe their glee when you finally figured out how to use “copy” and “paste” in a document ?) But lately I am more than a bit disillusioned with the whole thing. It seems like in the last several years, the only thing about computers that is new, is that they are faster, and can store more stuff. But they still crash, lose your files, are hard to use, and there are many programs that “do not play well with others.” And now I come to the really weird and very hard to admit element in all of this….. pause for deep breath…. I think part of my disappointment with computers is that I sort of expect the computer to “interact” with me. Oy, there I have written it. With all the time I spend in front of the screen, doing all manner of reading and writing and searching and surfing and coaxing it to operate properly, my computer does not, well. . . . . know me. This may seem ridiculous to you, but in some obscure corner of my psyche with all this investment of time with this technological marvel, you think it might just take a moment to say “hi!”…. Of course I am not completely alone in my delusion. One time when oldest son had gotten a new computer…. ( I think it was a 486) he called me to tell me all the great things it could do, and concluded breathlessly…”Mom, it does everything but have sex with you!” ( Sorry dear, but I needed a real life example ) The idea that computers were going to make our lives easier has turned out to be a lie. They have made our lives more complex. They are frustrating to use. They suck up wallets full of money. They don’t have the answer to “Life, the Universe, and Everything” and frankly I suspect my computer doesn’t even like me. So if you don’t see me up on the latest software and running the latest pentium chip 5 years from now, you will know why. I am ready to start treating my computer like the monkey wrench that it is. And stop expecting it to ever say “good morning” unless forced to do so, by some obscure config.sys file in the bowels of the hard drive. See….. there I go again, computers don’t have bowels. Obviously I have a long way to go in my paradigm shift from geek to Luddite. At this point, I am going to make my callous and unfeeling computer print out this document on paper where it will be safe from digital mayhem. Then I am going outside and play…. among the real people. And who knows, maybe one of them will actually say , “Hi ! “

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