Androids, iPods, Notebooks and Moshi: My Adventures with Technology
Nothing is simple
I bought some new toys recently. The laptop computer I used for the last five years was fading fast, and I needed a new computer to continue my work as a writer and artist. My cell phone contract with AT&T was up for renewal in November, and a friend persuaded me to purchase my first touch screen telephone. I also recently found myself wishing for an iPad. The cost was prohibitive, so I settled for the smaller and cheaper iPod touch.
With this proliferation of cutting-edge devices now occupying places of honor in my home, you might believe I am technologically savvy. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. When it comes to gadgets, I am timid and clueless. I like electronic toys, but they don’t like me. Even the stereo in my car was so sophisticated I never learned to use the radio, contenting myself to only play CDs while traveling. That also proved problematic—on more than one occasion, I accidentally slipped my CD into a small gap between the stereo and the dashboard instead of the CD player itself, losing my musical disc forever within the recesses of my vehicle. On the whole my technological comfort level was likely realized in the nineties when I bought a Super-Nintendo console to play the “Legend of Zelda” game. I must confess I called my brother to help connect it to my television, which established a pattern that has played out repeatedly over time. My brother-in-law hooked up my stereo. The gracious folks at Best Buy walked me through connecting a DVD recorder to my television. A friend set my contacts for the speed dial numbers on my phone.
I wanted a new alarm clock for a Christmas present last year, and my one stipulation was ease of use. I didn’t wish to resort to the owner’s manual every time I needed to set the time or alarm. I received a delightful clock named “Moshi” that both speaks and responds to verbal commands. No menus to select or buttons to press whatsoever; I simply greet Moshi and she asks me what I want from her. Unfortunately, Moshi listens in on my conversations and requests instructions whenever I utter a word with a “shh” sound in it. Moshi also inexplicably believes I’m talking to her when I say “uh-huh.” She has driven me from the room on more than one occasion so I might talk with someone in peace, liberated from the desires of my clock to offer the current time or temperature. Given the nature of my experiences with technology, what in the world was I thinking when I purchased a new laptop, an iPod and an Android Captivate telephone, all within a six month time period?
I don’t know…….
Apple products from Amazon.com
Moshi Alarm Clocks
Since we’ve established that even the simplest technological processes represent an enormous challenge to me, what adventures do you suppose there were to be had with my newest, greatest toys? Let’s examine just a few of my techno-foibles, conveniently categorized in chronological order.
Hewlett Packard Pavilion dv7. This HP notebook isn’t the top of the line, but it contained everything I needed and more. It has a webcam, but I am afraid of it and haven’t tried to use it yet. Luckily Microsoft’s “System 7” operating system is similar to Windows XP, and for the most part I have been able to ignore anything I haven’t needed. Navigating this system hasn’t been totally without incident, however—there were some emotional scars inflicted along the way.
At startup an icon resembling a thumb print appeared, ostensibly a new means for establishing user security. I was intrigued at the thought of scanning my thumb to log in but worried that a burn or bandage on my thumb might keep me from using my computer. With no secret files of extreme importance or even marginal interest to protect, I opted for the more traditional user name and password option.
I prepared my mind and spirit for the task of connecting my computer to a printer, but inadvertently attempted to plug the wrong end of the cord into the thing. This is not an “amusing” anecdote—I was ready to repack the printer and return it to Best Buy before a visiting friend noticed the cable was dangling loosely from the side of my HP notebook. Being a gracious guest, there was no effort on her part to mock me for my incompetence. She merely connected the computer and printer correctly and proclaimed the problem solved. Only when pressed did she reveal the unparalleled ineptitude of my blunder.
There have been other minor mishaps, including some confusion regarding how to open the BD-Rom drive. My old computer not only called this a CD-Rom Drive, it opened when I lightly pushed the CD tray inward. My new HP notebook wouldn’t respond to so pedestrian a solution, and it took another half-hour to discern how to load and eject a disc. At least the discs I put in my computer haven’t ended up somewhere in the dashboard of my car. My most enjoyable experience with the BD-Rom drive has been downloading various Hoyle card games. I now enjoy a minimal coexistence with my HP notebook, highlighted with games of “Go Fish” against cartoonish icons.
iPod Touch. I am delighted to download songs to my iPod, even though it predictably took multiple tries to connect my computer with iTunes. I’m proud of my resourcefulness in completing a task that required not just one gadget but two—my computer and iPod (mercifully there was only one connecting cord). I noted with a tinge of remorse that images from album covers didn’t transfer with the songs, but I am content and thrilled to have the Moody Blues, REM and Miley Cyrus all available at the touch of a button.
I am also enamored of the many other “apps” available to me. My favorites so far are “Talking Tom” (a cat that repeats what you say) and “Bubble XPlode” (multi-colored bubbles that burst with the touch of a finger; the more intricate the pattern of bubbles, the higher your score). If you have two iPods with the “Talking Tom” app, they will mimic each other until the batteries wear down. Dishes and laundry sit unattended, waiting for my fascination with these games to wane.
AT&T Android (Captivate) Cell Phone. I’ve only owned this for a few days, but the mayhem has already been considerable. I had to return a phone call from my mother because I couldn’t figure out how to answer the phone in time to take her call. I pressed on-screen “buttons” in vain hopes of chatting with Mom, but nothing worked. It seems the button was not meant to be pushed to answer the phone, but instead slid to the right—live and learn, I guess. A twelve-year old who never saw my phone before showed me how to make a call, and without him Mom would still believe I was ignoring her.
I wanted desperately to connect to Facebook and Twitter with my phone, and downloaded the “Tweet Deck” app to accomplish this task. The app boasted that I could synchronize all my social media with the touch of a button. I touched the button and was told, “This will only take a moment.” That was certainly accurate, but only because it didn’t accept my password. I sat at my computer, cell phone in hand, and typed in the same username and password my phone wouldn’t allow and connected with Tweet Deck immediately. After multiple efforts to “sync”, I opted to manually connect. Facebook remains beyond my reach, but I miraculously accessed Twitter. One would think the worst was behind me with this accomplishment in my resume, but I accidentally clicked another button and the screen appeared to offer a Google map of Denver. This would be handy if my goal was to tweet and travel (twavel???), but sitting in my home office 550 miles away from the Denver city limits, it seemed superfluous.
The future awaits
Despite these tribulations and more, I remain quietly determined to fall no more than ten years behind the technological curve. I stand defiant in the face of technological advances seemingly designed only to frustrate me. With the support of my family and friends, someday I may actually watch a movie on my computer or read a book on my iPod. I may even answer my cell phone on the third or fourth ring—a worthy goal since I’ve not yet learned how to delete messages from my voice mail…..
But for now, if you will excuse me, a revenge game of “Go Fish” awaits.
I have continued to tinker with new technology, and now feel less intimidated by their quirks. (All these toys are quirky, however--do not be fooled.) I have experimented with Kindles, android tablets and netbooks in addition to the items mentioned above, and I was fortunate enough to acquire an iPad 2 along the way. These marvelous gadgets clearly represent the future of personal computers, at least in my mind. They may not replace computers immediately, but I believe in the end a phone or a tablet will be all anyone needs.
Along the way, it is my hope that technology will be developed with the average person in mind. Technology that makes our lives easier, safer or more enjoyable should be a priority. Steve Jobs was brilliant at leading Apple down this path. The Macintosh computer, the iPod, iPad and iPhone all were developed for people, very much like the television, the radio or the microwave oven. What will come next?
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Hewlett-Packard products from Amazon.com
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