Monday, December 19, 2011

The lightness of being Luddite.

A few weeks ago, I read this article by Amanda Hooton and found myself thinking that someone had been spying on me, so similar was the story to mine.

For mine is also a tale of luddism by stealth. That's when you gradually realised that not only does the rest of the world have all the latest gadgets and you don't, but the gulf between your technology (analog) and theirs (wifi, iCloud, bordering on iThink) is so wide that you're pretty sure you're never going to be able to catch up. Don't get me wrong, we had a PC and accessed the internet, but that was the extent of it. Even our microwave oven dated to the Longford Gas Crisis of the late 90's. We were just not that interested in parting with money for a technology which seemed every week to outdate itself. "We're waiting for the next technology," we'd tell amused friends. And the next, and the next. The century ticked over.

Up until only about 3 years ago, my husband and I still owned a cathode ray TV. With wood grain. It was about our 4th secondhand TV, all rescued from successive family members who had ditched theirs to make way for flat-screen, then plasma, then LCD technology. About 6 years ago we got our first TV - with a remote control. At last! No more arguments about who had to get up and change the channel or adjust the volume! Rock, paper, scissors, you are history!

For a brief period we did enjoy a video player. That's VIDEO PLAYER. VHS. It was from my batchelorette days, the cheapest one on offer at Myer at the time. It lasted for a good ten years. When it died, so too did recording of programs and renting videos. Not so bad - the video shop had well and truly moved on to DVD anyway. But my days of catchup of Sex and The City were over and I had to wait until the summer reruns.

In saying all this, I was among the first of my friends to have a mobile phone in the late '90's. Again, it was a hand-me-down, my dad's old Ericsson analog brick with a tiny black and grey screen. When analog was phased out I was forced to accept his next discard, a Nokia 3310. A color screen still eluded me and friends were confused that although I could read their text messages, I couldn't see the pictures which explained the jokes.

I kept this phone until only a couple of years ago when I limped into the noughties with my Nanna's old phone. That's right. MY NANNA'S. She was moving into a nursing home and her technology was better than mine. When I tell you that her phone lacked a camera function or a color screen whilst all my friends were buying the first release iPhone, you will begin to understand the widening chasm that was developing. I might as well have had a stone tablet and chisel.

The funny thing is that I really didn't care. I resist using my mobile, and everyone who knows me knows it. I'm on the lowest plan possible. I often don't answer it, either because it's flat (old batteries don't last too long), or I'm driving (can't be bothered with hands-free) or I just forget to take it with me. My brother, exasperated by my prehistoric attitude, sometimes exclaims "Why do you BOTHER with a mobile phone if you don't answer it?'. My answer: a shrug and a 'meh'.

But this year I have made mind-blowing progress in closing the e-gap. First my brother permanently loaned me his touch iPod, opening a world of bedtime surfing after my husband installed a wifi router in our roofspace (had this been the result I doubt my husband would have so gladly done this). We then finally succumbed to a LCD TV when prices became so ridiculously low, and seduced by the idea of me being able to watch downloads of Boardwalk Empire whilst breastfeeding in the middle of the night, we boldly  bought into modern technology. A world of digital TV otherwise unknown to us boggled our minds, and we were dazzled by the choices like bunnies in headlights. No matter that we'd complained about the rubbish on TV before - now we could watch rubbish, in digital! And on so many channels!

And when it rains, it pours. The flood gates were open, the horse had bolted, there was no going back. When we decided a few months ago to move to New Caledonia to live for a while, the need to move on to a laptop became unavoidable. I found one on sale (because, suprise suprise! it was outdated - but still good enough for me) and snapped it up. And then, denying my own rule to only EVER buy traditional books, I bought an e-reader.

The guilt was so strong that I couldn't take it out of the box for a few days. After hours of downloading programs and then bravely buying an e-book, the damned thing wouldn't work. I was convinced it was karma and not meant to be. It took me a month and 3 telephone calls to Sony, including one where the Sony man remotely tried to fix it, to get a book to download. Finally my husband, sick of my bleating and mixed metaphors about having black thumbs with technology, tried some e-fiddling and magic happened - a book appeared in digital form. And I was hooked.

But still there was some resistance. A few months ago my dad sent me the link to setup Skype. "It's not that difficult," he insisted. I stalled. Pushed it out of my mind. "It's too haaaaaaaard," I whinged when he asked why I hadn't set it up. Finally, tired of not being able to call me cheaply and talk face to face with his grandson, my 68 year old father installed Skype himself on my laptop last weekend. I'll admit to an element of shame.

Last week the final piece of the puzzle fell into place when I bought an iPhone. I still feel overwhelmed and have asked my brother to come over to help me set it up this week. So by 2012 I will be welcoming myself properly and belatedly into the 21st century, in all its mobile, touch-screen, camera-enabled, facebook and twitter-equipped, app-ready and (should all that not be enough) phonecall-possible technological glory. I will finally, unbelievably, be e-complete. 

Although, to be fair, I must thank my aunt - it's her hand-me-down, after all.

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