Thursday, January 30, 2014

The wide, wonderful, wacky world of technology

I'm no Luddite*. Or at least I try to believe that I am accepting of new ideas and technologies. I have a laptop computer that I use all the time to write, design, research, learn and listen. And while I have so far resisted being constantly connected to the internet via a smartphone or other handy portable device, it's really just because I know my battered, vintage flip-phone amazes, amuses and annoys so many people.
But here's the thing. The wide, wonderful, wacky world of technology really does drive me batty now and then. Not so much because of what the technology itself does, but because of the downright strange ways we react--and overreact--to it.
For example, recent online headlines blared out about this bit of news the other day, including one that exclaimed,
That introduced a story I read last Saturday, the day after freebee email provider Gmail stopped working for, uh, less than an hour for a portion of its users.
I was one of them, and I admit I wondered what was going on for a few seconds. Then I yawned and wondered if was time for a nap, anyway.
But here's the thing...
 "Online panic?"
We're not talking about some earthshaking cyber-emergency threatening the very fabric of our existence and our ability to obtain chocolate. We're talking about an email provider that is free, anyway, that experienced a brief glitch. They even told us that they were experiencing some technical difficulties and politely suggested we try again in a few minutes. Now, I'm assuming the busy, high-powered folks who absolutely need uninterrupted 24/7 access to email tend to rely on providers other than the ones us cheap schmoes use, like Google, Outlook, Yahoo and the like. Heck, they might even pay for the privilege.  And even so, maybe the desperate emailer could turn to some alternate means of communication for a few minutes, like text messaging, a phone call or even (gasp) a face-to-face conversation.
Probably not.
I guess I should have panicked.
Am I the only person left in this world who thinks six thousand bucks is a heckuva lot of money?  Sure feels that way
The extremely rare Nintendo World Championships game cartridge has been spotted on eBay—for $6,000.
Manufactured for the 1990 Nintendo video game competition of the same name, the cartridge is one of 116 total, while only 90 official gray carts were given out to finalists.
Almost 25 years later, the Nintendo World Championships 1990 game is one of Nintendo's most valuable.The listing racked up nine bids totaling $6,100 when reported on, with more than one day left in its auction.
Yowee. Six thousand smackers for a used game cartridge made for a system my kids and grandkids think is old hat. Kinda reminds me of that comic book collection my mom pitched while I was in college.
This absolutely takes the cake...
Have you heard about this? Amazon claims to know its customers so well that they can ship what someone needs before they order it.  They call it "anticipatory shopping"."
I call it pushy.
And invasive.
And just plain weird.
I have, however, enjoyed imagining the kind of conversations that might occur when an un-ordered parcel arrives...

"Look honey, it's the xxxx you've always wanted. What a surprise!  It's a miracle!"

"Oh wow.  You got a xxxx from Amazon. When did you order it?"

"Uh, look. Amazon sent you a xxxxx. I didn't know you wanted a xxxx. Did you?"

"Hey jerkface, If you wanted a xxxx you should have just told me. I thought we were saving up for our vacation."

...and so on.
I saw an interesting diatribe on Facebook the other day. I guess I haven't given it this much thought before. Maybe I should...
Anyway, Bob Lefsetz, an American music industry analyst and critic, and author of the email newsletter and blog, the Lefsetz Letter, had this to say about FB:
"(Facebook is) for "old people" but that's not why we'd leave it behind. It can make you unhappy. It can ruin your relationship. It's ruined dating. It can cost you your job. Most importantly, the ever-shifting, hard-to-decipher privacy settings combined with the massive, Wall Street-driven incentive to pry more insistently into your personal life (the better to sell you) makes the world's most popular social network just a tad creepy."
Gee, and I just thought it was an easy way to keep track of people's politics, grandkids and cats.
He's right about one thing, though. I guess I am old.

* Luddite (n)
1. Any of a group of British workers who between 1811 and 1816 rioted and destroyed laborsaving textile machinery in the belief that such machinery would diminish employment.
2. One who opposes technical or technological change.
[After Ned Ludd, an English laborer who was supposed to have destroyed weaving machinery around 1779.]


  1. Dear fellow Luddite - I prefer to use the term "cyberchallenged" to describe my inability to handle much technologica.. Great column, as always.

  2. Wonderful John, I was debating writing a blog about my being a Luddite....but I am not as clever as you and would have had a hard time working in a definition. We have a flip phone. My son-in-law is silently working behind the scenes to switch us over to the latest in 'smart'. But we are resisting. I think that those who are so pushy about technology should just wait for about 30 years when most of us will have shuffled off this mortal coil and they can be badgered by their children to 'get with it'. Thanks for the smile. Jane