Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Technology: Friend or Foe?

We live in a technological age. Everyone is used to having a cell phone or two and many households out there own laptops as well as desktop computers. A great number of shoppers get a navigational system automatically when they buy a new car and most businesses rely on security systems with extensive technological do-dads, wiring and a fleet of guard men in patrol cars ready to rush over when there's a crack in the armor.

Despite all this, the baby boom generation grew up with one phone in the house (and well-to-do people had an extension!), the importance of sending handwritten thank you notes drilled into them by their moms, and family conversation around the dinner table as the central way to maintain communication channels. We looked people in the eye to 'chat,' and no one was allowed to read something simultaneously (like an text message) while having a conversation.

It was a more polite world, with more considerate and genteel behavior.

When I first moved to Japan, owning a computer was NOT a given yet, and email was still only a theory in some techno-whiz's mind. The terms "windows" and "apple" still only referred to glass squares placed in the wall of a house and a fruit as old as Eden, period. I was dragged kicking and screaming to the computer keyboard by a friend who was as determined to teach me how to use it as I was to avoid touching it at all costs. You can imagine how grateful to her I am, now, thirteen years later! But I can remember when television commercials started showing urls of homepages and thinking, "What about people who don't own a computer???" quickly followed by, "Oh right, I'm really going to be able to jot down that in 15 seconds!"

So how did we get to where we are today, with our Blackberries, Sidekicks, iphones and who knows what else? (I refuse to own a cell phone, so I'm not up-to-the-minute on the latest key equipment.) What is the slowpoke to do, if they haven't gotten on the technological bandwagon and/or jumped on with both feet?

There are a lot of people out there in that kind of pickle...they can't afford to run out and get the latest this and that; they can't afford it even when it's become obsolete and has been replaced by something else hot off the factory lines' press. I'm struggling even with a computer I rely on every day, simply because I haven't updated to Windows XP yet... I'm shut out of much of the latest downloadable software. Sure, I'd like to buy something new, but how in the world do I hope to master using it, if I still haven't got everything on THIS one figured out yet. I know I am so far behind the flow of progression that once I can afford to buy something newer, it'll also be a relic by that time.

The expression "user-friendly" is such an ironic joke! Technology, in general, is NOT user-friendly, even to a fraction of an ounce. User-friendly would be built to last for one thing. It would be timeless for another. I'm left to feel once again, that technology has it in for me... and there's not much hope for change in my situation. sigh