Between two worlds


By Neil Offen

I admit it: I still have a VCR. And several audio cassettes. And a couple of non-ambulatory Walkmen. And somewhere, buried deep in the detritus of my house, a manual typewriter.

Nevertheless, I also Google everything, scan my timeline, GPS the trip to the supermarket, check all my texts, post my pix. I nuke and I FaceTime and I open the weather app rather than look out the window.

That is, like many others, I am part of a generation caught between two worlds, stuck between ChatGPT and Betamax VHS. And that creates a problem.

With one foot firmly planted in the past, many of us may have difficulty sticking the other foot into the present. It’s why we want the new whatchamacallit but struggle with how it works and whether it is different from the last whatchamacallit. It’s why many of us are still unable to tell the difference between a doohickey and a dongle*.

(*For those interested: A doohickey is a term used in a vague way to refer to something whose name one cannot recall, like that … thing. However, a dongle is a small piece of computer hardware that connects to a port on another device to provide it with additional functionality, or enable a pass-through to such a device that adds functionality. Yeah, I have no idea what any of that means either.)

I recently bought a new washing machine. It had many doohickeys and a number of whatchamallits. Unfortunately, what it didn’t have, like most new technology, was clear, intelligible directions for those of us from the transistor radio generation on how to operate it.

I did, however, learn some important lessons about purchasing and operating new high-tech equipment.  

Don’t waste time searching for the manual. Since there is no physical manual in the box with your machine or device, this is time that could be better used complaining about how difficult it is to open the box.

Check the language of the instruction manual. When you finally do get to the online instruction manual, do not follow the Mandarin-language directions unless you are Mandarin.

Don’t waste time calling the customer help line. Even though you are well aware your call is important to them, it’s always good to remember that it’s not nearly as important to them as it is to you because, frankly, they’re a robot voice created by artificial intelligence and they have all the time in the world and never have to go to the bathroom or search for a Nutty Buddy Bar.

Don’t be fooled by instructional illustrations. These are not necessarily obscene, but then again, who really knows? These are usually very ambiguous line drawings drawn by someone’s grandchild. They are so unclear you may think they are telling you to plug Cable C into the USB port when they are really telling you to put on tactical hazard gear. 

Beware live chats. You may be encouraged to do a live chat if you cannot figure out where the pause button is or if you’re still having difficulty opening the box. It’s important here to note that the person with whom you may be doing a live chat is not, in fact, a person. Nor live.

It is an AI robot programmed to prevent you from calling Consumer Reports and giving your new machine or device only a 2.5-star review.

Know the limits of your tech skills. Installing, for instance, a new Dual Band Gigabit ADSL+ 2.4 and 5 Ghz wireless modem/router (and I only wish I was making up that name) by yourself is probably beyond your capability. (Deciding between “cool,” “cold” and “tap cold” on my new Zeph-200-G stainless steel washing machine was beyond my capability).

Never forget there are alternatives to all this high-tech gear. For instance, you could live off the land and become an off-the-grid hermit in a Wyoming cave, but only if you have a very unlimited data plan.

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1 Comment on "Between two worlds"

  1. An alternative is a washboard, if they still make them.

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