The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

14 March 2011

Of battery packs and pencils

Here's the thing: I am a grown up.  I deal with grown up things. Granted, I don't cook for myself and I need someone to find my glasses for me, but in many other ways I am a grown up.... mature, in fact.

Guaranteed, when computer technology becomes an issue, I lose my mind. Lose it!  I don't misplace it, set it aside for a time out, or simply forget I have a mind. I go all the way to "I've lost my mind".

I like my laptop. It's got a nifty majong game that keeps me company late at night when insomnia and writer's block collide.  It corrects me when I use ible when I should have used able. It allows me to quickly zoom off to cyber space and investigate the birth date of Johnny Depp, which of the Brontes wrote Jane Eyre, and what does it mean to bogart something, in manner of investigative reporter. Or someone who's procrastinating and extremely distractable. Distractible.

Computers launch human beings into space. Computers track global economies, keep a whole generation of young people informed of each other's latte consumption, and a computer named Watson recently won $77,147 over two nights of Jeopardy competition.

These facts disturb me on many levels, but most of all they leave me wondering why is it that my humble laptop cant behave itself? Why have the font sizes of everything randomly become super-sized in some places and Lilliputian in others?  Why does the touch pad no longer work, preventing me from left-clicking, meaning I can no longer highlight text or move the cursor. (Just when did left-click, right-click become verbs?) Speaking of the cursor, it now jumps all over the page if I take my eyes off it for a second, and sometimes even when I've got it pinned under all four of them.

I know there are rational explanations and solutions for these problems that make perfect sense in the world of bits and bytes. It probably has something to do with restoring, or defragging, or reindexing or what have you. 

But, and this is what drives me bonkers: technology, we were promised, was going to make life easier. Computers were going to reduce our work load, make us more efficient, and productive.  I'm sure there are numbers being crunched in a computer right now that says all those things are true.  But for me, at home, on my humble laptop trying to do my little bit for literature and good will for all men, this computer is far more complicated than the notebooks and sharp pencils I used to use. It makes me nuts that something that costs a decent chunk of money and has the aura of sophistication is more disposable than my $4.99 Gage Canadian Dictionary  - which also tells me when I should use ible, not able, I should point out, for considerably less the price.

I read a book to a group of grade four students a few days ago, about the history of cameras and Kodak film.  The Eastman company sold cameras preloaded with film.  You could take up to a hundred photos, then send your camera back to the company. They would develop your prints, and return the camera to you, reloaded with fresh film.  How easy is that?  Not to mention the customer service!  (Don't get started on that) Then we 'progressed' to dropping off the film at your friendly neighbourhood picture place, where they would mess up the 24 frames of Aunt Betsy's wedding.  Now, we spend large amounts of money for special photo printer paper, printers, ink jets, digital cameras, electronic photo frames, batteries and so on.  We spend time learning to photo shop, grow new grey hairs trying to figure out which cables belongs to which device, and finding the recharger for the back-up battery pack which somehow got mixed up with the cell phone paraphernalia.

I know all of this can be fun. It can in fact be convenient and efficient.  I just long for the simplicity of Yore when if your pencil broke, all you had to do was sharpen it.

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