Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Betwixt and Between

Barbara here, with apologies that this blog is a little late. Blame it on technology, or rather on my rather conflicted relationship with technology.

I grew up in the dark ages, before computers and iCloud and Internet, and I am of that generation that has to be hauled, squirming and bewildered, into each new technological era, usually coached by the ten-year-old in handy reach. Our family didn't get a TV until I was twelve, and for most of my youth, we fiddled with rabbit ears, colour balance, and vertical control to keep Ed Sullivan from being green and spinning dizzyingly on the screen. We had one phone in the house, which was firmly anchored by a cord to the wall in the hall. Imagine my sister's and my teenage delight when the 25-foot cord was invented, allowing us to drag the phone into the bathroom to talk to our friends.

I did quick mathematical calculations on a slide rule, and the statistical analysis for my M.A. thesis on a Monroe calculator, which looked rather like a glorified cash register. I typed my papers on a manual typewriter, using white-out to correct mistakes. Needless to say, one tried not to make too many mistakes.

I had a tattered little address book with every contact I'd ever made in forty years. Old phone numbers were scratched out and new ones squeezed beneath, sometimes a long succession of them. Knowing which one was the latest phone number was a game akin to reading hieroglyphics. I looked up research books from card catalogues in the library and then tried to find the books in the obscure back shelves of the library.

Today I have a 'contacts' list on my computer, a landline which is used primarily to screen out telemarketers and political robocalls, and a computer that allows me to write twenty-five pristine drafts of my latest novel without a single misstep. I don't even have to know how to spell, although that's an advantage. I can find out just about anything I need to know by clicking through links on the Internet. It's amazing, and I often wonder how on earth we did anything before the computer age.

Some things elude me, of course. I have not figured out what possible use Twitter is, and have not even attempted Instagram and Google Circles. I update my website with trepidation, and I resist downloading each new suggested software until I've been harassed to do so for months. I know from bitter experience that it will screw up some other perfectly functioning program, and I will have to call in the ten-year-old. And I admit, the notion of self-driving cars and even self-parking cars gives me the willies. Computers may control things better, until they don't. And we all know, sometimes they don't. I like to be in control, knowing the car will respond to my foot on the brake and the twist of the steering wheel. I use cruise control mainly to avoid getting speeding tickets.

What does this have to do with forgetting my blog? Throughout my years as a travelling consultant, I carried a day planner in my purse, held together with an elastic so the thousands of pink phone messages wouldn't fall out. It was easy and efficient. I wrote everything in it– all my appointments, phone numbers, to do lists, and so on. I could flip through it at a glance to check this week's appointments or next month's. None of this clicking through interminable links, squinting at tiny font on my phone, and waiting for the next page to load. I still use a day planner today, and about half my appointments go in it. But I have also discovered the Apple calendar on my devices, and have even managed to sync my phone to my laptop so it doesn't matter which device I'm on. This calendar has these handy little alert functions, reminding me to change my furnace filter and give my dogs their heartworm medication. So now, some things go on my paper planner, and some on my electronic one.

And regrettably, some things go on neither. Thus I forgot today was my Wednesday blog day until this morning. Next time, with any luck, a handy little alert will notify me the day before, just as soon as I have time to click through all the links and set it up.


Donis Casey said...

I imagine a day when sun spots wipe out technology and the world has to turn to us oldsters to learn how to function without computers.

Eva Gates said...

I'm with Donis.

Kristina Stanley said...

We have one of the black dial phones on our wall at the cottage. I love it when the kids come in and ask what it is. Now it's just decoration, but at one time it used to work. I can still remember the impatience I felt waiting for the dial to turn.

Barbara Fradkin said...

This black phone is at my cottage as well, Kristina, and like yours, it doesn't work anymore,. But it did, until I decided I didn't need to pay for a landline at the cottage when I had a cellphone. As for us geezers, who among you remembers how to work a slide rule?

Kristina Stanley said...

We still have a land line, but every year it's a discussion among the family about whether we should keep it or not. And every year it stays. No idea why. As for a slide rule - I'm too young for that :)