The Tech Trial


By Neil Offen

Yes, most of the time, we Google an answer. We scan our timeline. We GPS the trip. We check a text. We post our pix. We FaceTime rather than drop over. We open the weather app rather than look out the window.

Yet some of us still retain a VCR and a number of audio cassettes, a subscription to a print newspaper and a car that you actually unlock with an actual key.

But such a fondness for the past, in the midst of the digital present, can be problematic. The fact is, we’ve started to get odd looks when we try to send emails from our Underwood manual typewriter or insert carbon paper into our laser printer. Not to mention running with a Walkman.

Being stuck in the past is why some of us have so much difficulty figuring out the present. It’s why we struggle with how the newest whatchamacallit works and how is it different from the last high-tech doo-hickey.

If you, too, grew up analog, before there was a word such as analog, a few suggestions about how to install, operate and understand your new equipment: 

Don’t waste time searching for the manual. You have purchased a sleek new piece of tech but since there is no physical manual in the box with your device, this is time that could be better used complaining about how difficult it is to open the box.

When you finally do get the box opened, inside you may find a number of Apple decals and lots of bubble wrap, but there’s no manual because you are supposed to go online to check out the manual. This, of course, makes you wonder how you are supposed to view the 82-page “Easy Start-up” online manual when you can’t figure out how to get online.

Don’t waste time calling the customer help line. Even though you are well aware that 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 snack.

Watch out for 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 or download the drivers from the voice mail pop-up when they are really telling you to open the box or put on tactical hazard gear.  

Beware live chats. You may be encouraged to do a live chat if you cannot figure out where the USB port is or if you’re still having difficult 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 a robot programmed to keep you from calling Consumer Reports and giving your new 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. Stick with aiming the remote at the television and telling Siri to call for pizza.

Never forget there are alternatives. For instance, you could become an off-the-grid hermit in Wyoming living off the land and only occasionally checking the promotions tab on your Gmail (manually operated version) to see if Bed Bath and Beyond has a 20-percent-off coupon for you.

Carrboro resident Neil Offen has written humor pieces for a number of different publications, in a number of different countries. His column appears twice monthly in The Local Reporter.

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2 Comments on "The Tech Trial"

  1. Brilliant, Neil.

  2. Ellie Kinnaird | August 14, 2022 at 9:10 am | Reply

    Thank you, Neil. You brighten my world after reading all the bad news fit to print in the NYT.

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