Posted in Other Stuff

Unplanned Obsolescence

I am something of a gadget queen. There’s one person in every family who is the “go-to” guy or gal when a new phone is purchased, or when somebody hits the wrong button on the TV remote, or a printer needs to be hooked up. In my immediate family, I am the designated techie — the one who is willing and able to crawl under the desk with a flashlight, a screwdriver and a bent paper clip, solving whatever mysteries lurk among the dusty cords and metal boxes. I am the person who can download a new ringtone for you, or program your speed dial keys. I am the person who can take one look at the remote and instantly divine which key you inadvertently pressed, and which sequence of keys will restore your glorious HD experience.

I was annoyed, therefore, when a recent cell phone purchase led to my seeking help from the sales staff at my local Radio Shack. The darn thing came without a manual — and none was available online — but that had never thwarted me before. Good heavens, it’s just a phone. Any idiot can program a phone. (Except, I suppose you will note, the idiots in my immediate family — who normally rely on me to do it. But that’s neither here nor there.)

Me: “I need to return this phone.”

20-something sales clerk: “Why?”

Me: “I can’t tell when it’s on or off. Also I can’t get it to display the time, which is basically the same thing. I want a phone that displays the time when the power is on.”

20-something sales clerk: “Lemme see it.”

Me: “There’s no manual. Not even online.”

20-something sales clerk: “Lemme see it.”

Me: “I’ve already played with the display settings.”

20-something sales clerk: “Lemme see it.”

I handed him the phone, since there was clearly no way to convince this child, short of handing him the phone, that I knew what I was doing and had already tried anything and everything he could possibly try. He slid the phone open (something no one in my family circle would have been able to do without first asking me how). His thumbs danced across the keys in a pattern I could not decipher, and at a blinding rate of speed. By “blinding” I mean that they moved so quickly that they blurred.

20-something sales clerk: “Here ya go.”

I reclaimed my phone in a fog of amazement. And/or chagrin.  It hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks that my techie status was bestowed on me by default, since there are no kids in my inner circle. I am younger than my husband and my in-laws, so I get to be the techie. How pathetic is that? The expertise that dazzles my husband’s 93 year-old stepfather is, in the real world, laughable.


That sales clerk’s day is coming. In ten years’ time, his flying thumbs will be obsolete. Maybe sooner than that, but let’s be charitable. Ten years. In ten years, texting (for example) will be replaced by voice-to-text technology — or something else — and mad thumb skills will be relegated to history’s overflowing recycle bin.

Here’s a tip for my young readers: You will know you are obsolete when some new piece of whiz-bang technology is ushered in, and you roll your eyes and exclaim, “But the old way is easier!” I’m guessing that for some of you, that day will come when the first, semi-creaky version of whatever-eventually-replaces-texting is debuted. Because whatever it is, your flying thumbs will (at first) outpace it. And feel more natural to you. And be — you got it — easier. Because you’re so darn good at texting.

You poor dears.


8 thoughts on “Unplanned Obsolescence

    1. For the moment, there’s room in my heart for both. But with Dorchester announcing that this month will be the last month in which they publish mass-market paperback, there’s a definite chill in the air … I anticipate a world without books as we know (and love) them, coming up sooner than any of us dreamed a year or two ago. 😦

  1. Loved this post and the video–very funny. So true about things becoming obsolete. It’s amazing what we have now–Bluetooth, voice-activated, video phones.

    I’m loving my Kindle, but hang on to your books–who knows how soon they just may quit printing them on trees.

    1. It’s rather chilling to imagine a world without books, isn’t it? “Real” books, I mean. Paper and all that. 😦

  2. Here’s my retort! I am offended, or not an in-law, not sure which.

    (Took me a while to get to this blog. Too busy fixing stuff!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s