Sunday, March 9, 2014
When Technology Accelerates ...
My dad, who died in 1999, never learned to use a computer--even though there was one in the house. Mom was a very early user and had, I think, an Apple II in the late 1970s, a device which she had linked up with her electric typewriter. Mom continued using computers (my brothers and I took turns buying them for her) until three years ago or so when, in her 90s, she just couldn't remember how to turn it on and off, how to access the things she wanted to do. She used Quicken and AOL and word-processing and email--that was about it. Mom was not a surfer, on the beach or in her study.
We tried various ways to help her (I made up and sent her an illustrated instruction sheet), but I live 600 miles away, and my two brothers, both in the Boston area, are about 120 miles away and get out to see her every week or so in Lenox--but that's not close enough to give the help she needed. It was frustrating when she would call and ask for tech help. I couldn't "see" her screen or configuration, and as her tech-vocabulary began to dwindle, it just became impossible to help her at long distance.
Mom is also ferociously proud and would not ask anyone in her stages-of-care place for help. And so the computer--her last laptop--still sits on a table in her dining area, but I'm sure she hasn't even turned it on in a couple of years. Just having it there, though, is important to her. She likes visitors to see it.
But Dad just never got into it. I'm not sure why. He was not all that "tech savvy" anyway. His good friend Ed Rosser (who taught chemistry at Hiram College) always had to come over to hook up our new stereos or TV sets. I don't know who helped my folks when they left Hiram for Des Moines, Iowa, where they both joined the faculty of Drake University in the fall of 1966. But someone had to, for Dad was, well, hopeless and helpless.
I don't think he ever used an ATM (I could be wrong--but probably not); he never used an automatic gasoline pump; he did use a TV remote, but by the end he was pretty much limited to on and off and channel-changing. They had a VHS player, but it was beyond Dad (Mom, too, eventually), and cassette tapes were about the extent of his audio capabilities. He never used a cell phone. Mom had one for a while, but soon it became beyond her. I never call that number anymore.
I think about the Prius we drive now and wonder how Dad would have coped with it. (A World War II vet, he always was a little puzzled why his sons would buy cars made in Japan and Germany.) There are features on that car that I haven't even tried, so I'm sure Dad, were he alive, were he to win a Prius in a raffle, would immediately sell it.
I've tried not to let technology whiz by me. I tried to keep current especially, when I was teaching. When I began my career (in 1966), I had to learn how to use a 16mm movie projector, a 35mm filmstrip projector, a Carousel slide projector, 8mm and Super 8mm cameras and projectors, an overhead projector, a reel-to-reel tape player/recorder, an opaque projector. The school still had about a dozen record players. And chalk. That was about it. As the years went on, I kept current--learning about 3/4-inch video tape, VHS, laser discs, DVDs, CDs, computer projectors, white boards (not my favorite), PowerPoint, Moodle, etc.
Since retirement, I've been using Facebook and Twitter--though not any of the other social-networking sites. I have a snazzy digital camera (which I use less and less for iPhone reasons), an iPhone (never have had an iPod), an iPad, and a KindleFire--though I would not say I'm an especially sophisticated user. I want very much to keep current, though--for I watched my father (and now my mother) gradually lose track of the world--and their friends and some distant family--because they let technology roar past them like a freight train ... oops, soar past them like a drone.