By Joan Whetzel
There is no shame in being Technology Challenged. I am Technology Challenged, and proud of it. In spite of the negative connotations attached to the title, Technology Challenged does not mean doing without technology. It simply means preferring the KISS (Keep It Simple Sweetheart) method of accomplishing everyday tasks, and refusing to buy high-tech simply because it's “cool." It also means shopping for technology with a clear idea what I want and refusing to allow salespeople (fluent only techno-jargon) to bully me into buying something expensive.
What Is Technology Challenged?
Being Technology Challenged began when I got my first microwave oven. I have always been a little suspicious of any cooking method calling for "nuking" one's food. (How radioactive does the food get anyway?) In any case, I began hunting down microwave "cookbooks" in an attempt to use this cooking imposter for something other than undercooked TV dinners, semi-thawed frozen vegetables, and burned popcorn with lots of unpopped kernels. Everything I nuked, however, came out unevenly cooked, with mottled frozen spots mottled intertwined with smoldering, smelly, rubber zones. As a result, I rarely used my microwave for anything other than undercooking TV dinners, burning popcorn, and semi-thawing frozen veggies – and a little old-fashioned dust collecting.
Since those early days, I have become a charter member of the Technology Challenged (TC) community, which is experiencing an increased discontent towards the explosion of high-tech inventions. TC's don't reject all high-tech items mind you. Like Rube Goldberg, we merely enjoy poking fun at the products that advertisers insist will make our lives easier. Some of the more obnoxious inventions that have come out over the years have included:
1) Palm-Pilots: Overpriced electronic game/ phone books, too small to use without a magnifying glass; includes a miniscule stylus (that people like me would lose).
2) Smart Phones: A later version of the palm-pilot, that tries to fit a phone and an entire computer system into a widget the size of a 3x5 index card. It has a screen too small to read, and no buttons, and makes "butt calls" every time the user sits down with the device in his or her pocket.
3) Way-Too-Small Cell phones: I'm talkking about the super-tiny, unreadable, squawk boxes with annoying rings, employed by people out to impress others by making private phone calls in public spaces (i.e. supermarkets, restaurants, classrooms...). I finally gave in and got a basic cell phone once it became obvious that public telephones were becoming obsolete. I still have trouble hitting those blasted little buttons correctly.
4) Universal remotes for the entertainment center: Supplied with an overabundance of buttons – too tiny to read – for every conceivable option in electronic entertainment, with a few extra buttons for features that have not been invented yet. With the ever expanding amount of equipment required for an up to date entertainment system, more than one "universal remote" is now required, so that now you need an engineering degree to figure out which universal remote to use for which set of equipment.
5) Appliances imbued with unnecessary options: Washers, dryers, and ovens fitted with digital settings, also requiring an engineering degree and advanced programming skills to operate them. Like, do we really need to adjust the oven temperature by on-degree increments? I mean, get real! Every recipe and every TV dinner or frozen family dinner lists the degrees by 25-degree increments. What's a person supposed to do with all those other degrees that they will never use?
6) Cars with options unusable while driving. Satellite GPS? Puh-leaze! Pull over and use a real map! GPS doesn't even give accurate directions anyway. And TV?!? Give me a break! Let the kids learn to entertain themselves, like we did when we were kids.
7) Anything with an owner's manual about the size of the State of Texas. The manuals are definitely larger than the product they come with (i.e. graphing calculators and smart phones), and never seem to be translated into plain English.
Variations on Technology Challenged (T.C.)
Over the years, numerous terms have crept into the English language meant to refer to Technology Challenged people – Technologically Impaired, Technological Invalid, and Techno-Phobe to name a few. While sharing a distaste for and frustration with some forms of technology, TC's are technically advanced in comparison to these more disabled relatives.
TC's, for instance, find tools like computers and the internet useful, and can navigate them with relative ease. The Technologically Impaired, on the other hand, are highly intimidated by technology, preferring not to approach it unless pushed. Yet, they can still manage a few simple techno-tasks – with a lot of help. Of major concern, are the Technological Invalids. DO NOT leave these people alone, unsupervised with any form of technology! Their efforts to "figure it out" have leveled entire rooms full of high-tech equipment in a nanosecond. Lastly, there are the Techno-Phobes, so paralyzed by the sight of technology that they voluntarily avoid it. All it takes is one techie or technology salesperson insisting on showing them the latest gadget to send a Techno-Phobe running from a room or a store, shrieking hysterically.
The Techie Community
Likewise, the Techie community is beyond comprehension to those of us who are less technically inclined. Techies believe the world should embrace technology as they have, and cannot understand why anyone in their right minds would reject such glorious toys. It's not the technology that baffles us so much as the Techno-Geek's faith in said technology. For instance, what happens when a piece of equipment breaks and it can’t be repaired? We could spend hours discussing the cost of fixing or replacing these broken machines, not to mention the speed with which the things become obsolete, and take over America’s landfills. Then there's the mass hysteria over all the information that has become lost and all the time it's going to take to rebuilt it from scratch everytime a tech gadget crashes.
Another question that confounds most TC's: Does all of that beloved technology really make anyone’s lives easier? I think not!Take cell phones, for example. Grocery shopping takes twice as long as necessary because cell phone talkaholics must discuss their shopping experience with this gadget glued to their ear – and in such detail, that anyone forced to listen is bored into a coma. Furthermore, they are so engrossed in their conversation that, in an advanced stage of Telephone Oblivion, they block the shopping cart traffic behind them, backing it up for aisles.
Adding to the list of complaints are the gadgets like my husband’s Dick Tracy style watch. Perhaps someone can explain to me how taking seven steps to download a phone number from this watch is easier than the two steps it takes to find the same information in my personal, hand written phone book.
Techno-Geek Significant Others
The hardest part about TC life is not living without the gadgets that "make life easier." It's living with a Techno-Geek. When asking for help with computer problems, for instance, all I require is someone to talk me through the problems, while keeping the instructions in English. My personal, in-house Techie, however, insists on giving me the expert version of instructions complete with incomprehensible examples. And when I stare back at him blankly with my eyes glazed-over, he takes over the keyboard. (I move too slowly and don’t speak techno-babble). The technical changes he makes, unfortunately, are usually too difficult for me to figure out without techno-geek experience and advanced technical skills. My resident techno-geek then earns the privilege of un-installing the up-grades and talking me through the changes indumbed-down, plain English.
Techie significant others also cannot be trusted with appliance shopping. Their first job, as they see it, is kibitzing with the salesperson, in order to locate all appliances with the optimum number of advanced digital settings (engineering degree and advance technical classes not included). TC's could never possibly learn to use these settings in their lifetime, and their personal Techies will never want to use in theirs. (In over 30 years of marriage, my husband has managed to use my low-tech washing machine a few times - it has real, live turn knobs.) Unbelievably, I really do appreciate the creative nature of those who birth technology and those who work with it. It’s easy to spot their creative enthusiasm and the trance they enter when they're involved in a project.
But, where techie’s really earn their keep is diagnosing and repairing ailing technology (i.e. computer hard drives that crash in the middle of writing a story or article with a short deadline), skills well beyond the abilities of most TC’s. These skills are usually combined with the tenacity to see the job through.
Overall, though, in choosing to remain Technology Challenged, I don’t see myself as the challenged one. I see myself as the challenger, resisting total assimilation into techdom and protesting the technologists' insistence on reinventing the wheel. In other words, people, quit over-engineering stuff. Just give me something I can really use. How's about inventing me a Rosie the Robot to clean my house? Self-cleaning and self-maintenance functions included.