‘Below is a witty story written by someone very close to me – that would be my dad – about trying to keep up with technology. Very appropriate as it relates to newbies in the Internet/social media marketing arena. Enjoy!
THOSE PESKY ELECTRONS
Our friends and family called us pioneers because we bit the bullet and bought the first TV set just in time for the first Louis/Walcott fight in 1947. It was a massive three foot high Philco console with a barely detectable ten inch viewing surface, centered, and about five inches from the top. It looked like a postage stamp pasted on the Great Wall of China. The instruction book, written in hieroglyphics, was particularly intimidating because no one in the family believed that pictures could fly through the air. It took a long time for us to accept the miracle of travelling sound waves, but this was too much to swallow. The mystery box only had three knobs, ON/OFF/VOLUME, CHANNEL SELECTION and PICTURE ADJUSTMENT. There were two expandable metal rods aligned in the shape of a V, which could be widened and swivelled, known as a “Rabbit-ears antenna.” It sat on top of the console and bore no resemblance to the ears of a rabbit, unless the rabbit had auditory nerves in the center of his head. The first two knobs were self-evident, but the last one, in conjunction with the antenna, showed an infinite number of variations which didn’t seem to be reproducible. To maximize clarity, one had to match the 10,000 or more antenna positions with a numberless knob setting. I was able to maximize Channel 5 clarity by holding the antenna at a 24 degree angle, while dangling my left leg at 47 degrees over the right armrest of the couch, unless it was raining. In that case, if I turned the knob one turn to the right and straddled the left side of the easy chair, the picture improved, on Thursdays only. By the time I optimized Channel 5, the program was over. However I did enjoy the midnight prayer. And dear old Grandma, who was too petrified to touch a knob or the antenna, spent most of her time watching test patterns. When not watching test patterns, she loved seeing Bishop Fulton J. Sheen because he wore a yarmulke and she didn’t understand English very well, Though still in denial of flying pictures, electronic innovations came at me too fast to absorb. I now learned that these non-existent pictures could also be recorded on a piece of plastic.
So I ventured into the world of VCRs. Unfortunately having never even trusted my alarm clock, I forced myself to watch every taping. The machine had a sneaky look on its face and could not be trusted when I turned my back. So now I have a massive collection of operas, ballets, shows and videotapes which I don’t watch any more. And all it cost me was an angry wife, kids who grew up without a father and friends who gave up on me. Now of course tapes are becoming obsolete and they have been replaced by men’s underwear- DVDs. Another inkling that the world was passing me by came with my introduction to computers. I knew that the abacus was born over 2000 years ago. But I still couldn’t fathom how a bamboo frame with beads sliding on wires could solve arithmetic problems. It seemed more appropriate to play music on it. I had seen similar structures on baby cribs and didn’t know how to use them either.
Thus, bursting with ignorance, I stumbled on to an industrial computer which used 10,000 vacuum tubes, 1800 square feet of floor space and consumed 180,000 watts of electrical power. It seemed even more intimidating than the crib, but I studied it with uncharacteristic patience. Had I had a choice, I would have preferred hearing lectures in baby talk instead of “computer speak.” They explained that the monster had punch card 1/0, 1 multiplier, 1 divider/square rooter and 20 adders using decimal ring counters. I found no room for disagreement, although I would have loved to disembowel the instructor I tried to look intelligent and didn’t express my opinion that the computer would make a good center island for an oval running track. Reading the brochure introduced even more confusing terms to add to my useless collection. Actually my only previous exposure to punch cards was on a weaving loom. I waited for hours hoping that a blue worsted fabric would emerge from the other end of the ENIAC. The evolution progressed to Random Access Memory (or RAM), Magnetic Core (hence the company name “Apple”) Memory and the Transistor Circuit Element. This increased the RAM capacities from 8,000 to 64,000 words (damn my limited vocabulary!) with access times of 2 to 3 milliseconds. (I’m retired. What’s my hurry? My sight is so bad that I can’t even read the millisecond hand on my watch). Downsizing of circuitry, photo printing of circuit boards and vacuum deposition of transistors became the norm and entire assemblies became available on tiny “Chips.” What the hell is a chip? I only know them as bone fragments, poker equipment, pieces of chocolate, etc.etc. and never associated any of them with information storage. Yet, by some miracle, this led to the introduction of personal computers (PCs).
I stoically avoided PCs for many years, until my employer provided me with a laptop and commanded me to use it. I initially felt like Grandma, only I stared at a monitor with funny looking little icons instead of test patterns, afraid to touch the keyboard. I was told that my unit could process about four million instructions per second. Panic attacks betrayed my inability to issue more than 300,000 instructions per second, despite my superior leadership skills. While I dawdled in panic, advances like networking, E mail and electronic publishing shot past me. When I succumbed to pressures and tried word processing, my first epic was WWWWWWWWWWW 197 times. I guess I held the key down too long. My old Remington typewriter never abused me like that. But I am learning. After chasing the mouse all over the walls, I almost have it under control. All I have to do is hold my right hand steady with a C clamp. I understand that my computer “talks” to my printer on my request. I never hear the conversation, but they tell me it takes place. I wonder what would happen if the printer refused the instruction and told the computer to shove it up its telephone jack. Would the screen now be littered with invectives? I would gladly picket for the first amendment rights of the printer to speak its mind.
My latest foray into the world of technology involves the cell phone. How complex could a telephone be? You just punch out the number you want. But no; we also have call waiting, caller ID, address book, rings that play Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C Sharp Minor, timers and screens that tell us we are “roaming,” when we know exactly where we are. It gets even more threatening with the advent of picture phones, etc.etc. You can be awakened with a picture of your Mother-in-law, pants pressed, your coffee ready, your shower started and your car waiting in front of the house.
As soon as computer science learns to perform a few more human tasks, I expect to be arrested for bigamy. Emotions will probably become programmable, but the thought of a passionate hunk of metal licking my ear turns me off. Scientists say that I am 63% water and the balance of subatomic particles like electrons, protons and neutrons. Since we know that electrons do most of the work, why are my electrons so hostile to electrons in the new technologies?
Why can’t we electrons just get along? copyright 2009