Running in Circles

Chasing technology

My 40 years of chasing technology

“Huh, I pondered. What is he talking about?” The newscaster was discussing something called “Bitcoin.” To me, he was speaking in a foreign language.

It is nothing new. I have been in a tech fog for years. And the cloud cover of ROM and RAM is getting denser by the day. Every human being between five and 45 has passed me by with the lightning speed of technology.

In 1983, the home computer was the “It” kid, advertised for personal and educational home use. We were in our 30s and joined the masses trying to keep current, purchasing our first computer—an Apple 2e. The large beige unit sat on a desk looking bureaucratic, although no one in our household had any idea what to use it for. Not to be outdone by the buzz of Gen-Xers born in the 70s, my good friend and I signed up for an introductory computer class at the local community college. We were going to learn a program called LOGO. Other than understanding it was not a class on how to design the next NIKE Swoosh, I had no idea what to expect.

According to the class description, “LOGO is a language that makes it easy for children to learn programming by directing an object to perform a series of tasks. LOGO is specifically designed to engage kids in the four C’s: Critical thinking and problem solving, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and innovation.”

We weren’t kids, but this “easy and engaging” program was beyond the critical thinking skills of two college-educated wives and mothers. We learned capably how to insert the floppy disks correctly, but truthfully, we were the floppy ones. After struggling through the semester, we decided a different technique was needed to get a passing grade. We may have been slow on the computer, but we were fast with social graces.

We invited our lovely instructor to lunch after class one day and spent the afternoon praising her teaching ability. In short, we became new best friends, until grades were locked in. It worked. We were both awarded a grade of “A,” which really stood for “Antiquated”. We were proud and touted our success.

We gave up programming and, thankfully, computers became much more user friendly. Programming was left to the young, adept, dot-commers. The rest of us learned to send messages through electronic mail—email—that was free, no less. This new technology was amazing, and we could save money on stamps and steps to the mailbox by a simple “send” stroke on the keyboard. We discovered we could also balance our checkbook on the computer, create professional presentations, make spreadsheets, and do almost anything but bake a cake.

The computer seemed invincible, great for administrative tasks. But this proved to be just the opening of the floodgates. It was beyond my comprehension that this molded plastic box could hold so much information. One day, in trying to recall a historical fact, a friend spoke up: “Just Google it.” What kind of baby talk was that? I would have been on my way to the library reference section until this techie stopped my archaic ways. In less time than it takes to find the right volume of World Book, I was able to find the answer to any question that popped up. How old was Elvis when he died? Google it! What year was the Mexican American war? Google it! How do you treat a spider bite? Just Google it! With the peck of a few fingers, the term “encyclopedia” was replaced with “Wikipedia.”

I struggle to update my computer savvy, to rewire my brain, to learn how to use the latest applications. Just when I feel competent, like I was successfully treading water, a giant wave of updates is implemented. I find myself drowning and overwhelmed again.

To be honest, we can barely work the TV. The remote used to be the epitome of luxury. Now, if we can just remember how to switch remotes and access various streaming platforms—along with keeping track of free trials and passwords—we can binge on 10 seasons of something we will never remember after it is over.

Our grandchildren recently came to visit. The 10-year-old, who does not have her own phone, somehow knew how to install apps on my phone that I didn’t know existed.  She was able to write a play including 20 scenes, film the family in various roles, and direct the production. She managed to add music, backgrounds, and edits after we had filmed multiple takes. I marvel at her ability, how she has learned this on her own with a little help from her friends.

Though I am confident using Facetime and have managed to access podcasts on my phone, I constantly hear other alien terms that could just as well be spoken in Russian: WhatsApp, TikTok, cryptocurrencies. What’s next?

I need to stop running in circles. It’s time to reset my brain so I picked up the fall catalog of classes at the local community college. I’m going to register for “Navigating Computers in Today’s World.” I plan to up my game and invite the instructor for dinner this time.

Suzi Schultz Gold is the former marketing director for MCCS Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. After decades of raising children and pursuing a meaningful career, she’s discovered the joy of writing narrative essays in retirement. She published her first memoir, Look at the Moon, in 2021.

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