Geri-Antics: Modern technology, part one

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, October 12, 2023

By Anne Carmichael

Columnist

“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”

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– Albert Einstein

In the coming weeks, I will explore the fascinating and often bewildering world of technology and its effects on the Baby Boomer generation. I will be making some startling revelations about my ineptness where the latest gadgets are concerned, and I hope that when you see me, you’ll wipe away a few of the cobwebs from my poor, graying head as I go by.

While we were the movers, shakers and even the inventors of much of the technology since we came of age in the 1960s, Boomers are beginning to retire and find themselves using phrases such as these newfangled gadgets.

Much of the innovation was beyond the typical Boomer’s comprehension. We’re glad we have inventions such as the Jarvik heart, text-to-speech technology, and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries well, but we don’t need to understand how they work or how to use them.

And then along came our contemporaries, Sir Tim Berners-Lee (b. 1955), who developed the World Wide Web, and Steve Wozniak (b. 1950) and his future partner, Steve Jobs (b. 1955) who invented and marketed the first personal computers and irrevocably changed our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to progress. For the most part, technological advancements have made life much easier for everyone, myself included. I have never had to wash laundry by hand or use a wringer-washer. My mother hung clothes on the line to dry. I do not.

In my lifetime, I have had televisions, which were massive pieces of furniture around which an entire room had to be designed. Plants, tchotchkes, and cats sat on lace doilies atop the cabinets. The first pictures were black and white. There were only three channels, and even so, a 20-foot antenna was required outside of our house to get a semi-decent reception. The worst inconvenience of all was there were no remote controls. No remote controls. We had to wade through yards of shag carpeting to change the channel or turn the blasted thing on and off.

Today, we have computerized, high-definition, color televisions that are so paper-thin the cat can no longer warm herself on top. Most TVs hang on the wall or over the fireplace. Lifelike images on hundreds of channels appear on the flat screens and give the impression that one could reach right out and touch the cheetah that seems to be bolting straight towards us. There are many options that record shows in our absence because our lives are compartmentalized and we must schedule even our free time.

Surround sound makes television not just an electronic device but an experience. (I still duck whenever the sounds spin around the theatre before a movie). Shows that pique our interest are even suggested to us by a computer chip.

I missed out on the whole VCR thing because I never figured out how to program the device. I’ve become proficient with the DVD player, but now what is a DVR?

Somewhere in my 40s or 50s, I began to lose touch with technology. In a matter of what seemed only minutes, we had to switch gears from eight-track tapes to cassette tapes that fit in our pockets. Moments later technology demanded we discard our cassettes and switch to CDs. I kept up. I learned, but now that I’m finally proficient at inserting and ejecting six discs into the dashboard of my car, they tell me that CDs are obsolete. I never had a Walkman, an iPod, or any of those cute little personal music devices and truly didn’t feel deprived.

In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss the advent of cell phones, seatbelts, GPS, and many other newfangled gadgets that threaten to make our generation appear relics in the eyes of the Millenniums that we’ve spawned and those of future generations.

If you’re feeling a bit bewildered, join me as we navigate our ever-changing world.