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In the Catbird Seat/Joe Kirkish

Dealing with technology

November 29, 2012
The Daily Mining Gazette

So we're smack in the midst of a new age - all things digital and electronic. Progress? Well, there was a time when it would seem so, but now that Pandora's box has been opened, there's no telling what evils will sneak out along with the good - including forking out dollars for all those gadgets the kids take for granted as absolute necessities.

It was no surprise when an article in The Week magazine revealed the fact that people in Silicon Valley admitted they fear they've gone too far too fast, yet intense competition pushes them ever onward. So where do we hapless adults go from here? What more costly gadgets and upgrades are yet to come?

Shouldn't we consider ourselves fortunate to be living in this age of rapid communication?

Let's take a daring walk through some of the wonders we now have:

No more cumbersome typewriters; the clack clack has been replaced with the soft whisper of computer keys. We no longer have to worry about carbon copies and the erasing of typing errors - a flick at the delete key takes care of that - and cut and paste electronically is so easy. No fuss, no muss.

Fine, so far. But while a typewriter was expected to last a lifetime, as soon as you buy a computer it is already out of date. Keep it for a few years and you no longer can buy apps for it.

OK, so newer is better. Really? More accurately, newer is more expensive, more complex, crammed with multiple uses and choices that take a professional to feel comfortable with it. The same for a printer and other apps. The only resemblance to any previous model is the logo. The rest, a melange of new icons, formats, language and devices that, once you learn the new tricks, can do virtually anything to make your life simpler.

Well, almost. You'll still need apps for that. Apps? Where did that come from? The bottomless pit of newly coined words, like apps for appliances, compress normal English into a new language. Don't believe me? Ever get a tweek from a twit?

Which brings up a whole new nest of snakes - all those gadgets that do more with less space - an endless parade of updates: cellphones become smartphones, and do anything but brush your teeth. Oh, yes, I suppose you can even use them to make a phone call if you can get past the taking of photos, using GPS, watching movies, etc. Same for the variety of tablets, which can also double as a compact bookshelf - nice, if you can remember how to use it and update the batteries after forgetting to shut it down. Ever curl up with a cold, flat tablet?

But the digital pandemic doesn't stop there. Watches, automobiles, radios, TV sets - anything that has moving parts - is equally distressed with items that tell you what to do, making decisions for you whether you like it or not. Fine if they really knew your tastes and if they were consistent in their choices - which they definitely are not.

Take any new car. You have hollows for at least half a dozen drinking cups, but no place to hang a trash bag. Your radio makes selections via satellite and works only when there is a clear signal to your car (and that's sporadic). You long for the old-fashioned, trusty analog type that doesn't offer hundreds of faraway stations that digital sometimes decides for your listening. You have an engine that accelerates whether you want to or not, a readable touch panel that's full of icons to be studied and which take your eyes off the road for any use of changes.

Then at home there are the new TV improvements, which require passing a pilot's test to make formerly simple choices with only one remote and with less than 50 channels from which to choose. Get a dish and there goes your week's food allowance.

I could go on, but I think you know what I'm driving at: In the ever expanding digital age, newer is not necessarily better.

The Tech Theatre Company presents "Romancing Horror: Four Stories By H.P. Lovecraft!" at 7:30 p.m., today, Friday and Saturday in the McArdle Theatre. Tickets are available at the door

Rotten Tomatoes averages: "Life of Pi," A-; "Rise of the Guardians," B-



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