When faced with the loss of something you’re readily used to having around in your daily life, you either tough it out until it can be part of the routine again, or find ways to compensate. On such occasions when you lose that something, you wonder how you and others, including ancestors, did without and still managed a normal life. You know, the good old days — although most reliable sources inform us they weren’t necessarily good or even barely tolerable. In fact, compared to today’s conveniences, those halcyon days of yesteryear were pretty miserable, as any viewing of “Victorian Slum House” and past PBS programs of its kind will reveal.
We were recently scheduled for an upgrade of our telephone and Internet service when the old DSL modem from AT&T that had served us faithfully for a number of years kicked the bucket. That meant a few days of doing without our Internet until the technician could make his service call. Yet phone service remained uninterrupted, much to the delight of the robo-callers we strive to ignore thanks to the miracle of caller ID. We then discovered, much to our discomfort, how much we rely upon our Internet connection for news, social media, entertainment and sources of information. Going online had become an ingrained form of distraction for all of us.
Oh, there were things to fill the void in our collective attention span — regular TV, music, reading (wow, what a concept!) and get this, talking to each other — but pretty soon you missed those moments of sitting down at the desktop unit or tablet and conducting your own personal review of what’s out there. Because for even somebody as old school as myself, once you learn how to access stuff online, or indulge in new technology, it’s hard to go back to what previously worked.
For example, typewriters became obsolete for me when I regularly began working at a word processor around 1980, a great development since I never was any good at changing ribbons. Boiling water for a single cup of instant coffee fell by the wayside with the purchase of a Keurig, and passwords still crowd for space in your brain in this increasingly technical world in which we live. I could go on, but you get the idea. And all of that, like or not, is okay — must be — because it’s how we now exist, except if you choose to go to your own Walden Pond and live off the grid, not an unknown idea.
Technology is all for the advancement of convenience in our lives, or so we’re told. Yet I find phone books still have a purpose on those occasions when you can’t consult your computer for a local number; a broom, dustpan, brush and some elbow grease work just as well as a Roomba; and I still consult books and periodicals when doing research as much as I do Wikipedia and the like. Clinging to yesterday, sure, but it works for me. But technology has provided its share of delights, one of them streaming older and obscure movies and TV shows into the 55-inch screen in the living room. To be truthful, that’s what I really missed about not having Internet, but it appears I’ll be losing that option soon and adapt to another means of access.
Indeed, it must be adaptability inspired by living in an ever-changing world of upgrade and larger capacity that keeps everyone fascinated with technology, providing them with another challenge to master this piece of work. Seems we all know somebody who has to rush out and get the newest and improved device for communicating and functioning when it hits the market. Must be what makes the national economy, and credit card debt, the wonder it is today.
So when a new modem and service was installed — and thank you for everything, Chris Nelson of AT&T — we happily returned to our favorite online pursuits. But at those times when we’re disconnected or some mishap keeps us in the dark both literally and figuratively, and not dependent on smart phones, iphones or whatever, put your faith in simple low-tech or no-tech things like candles, books, cards, board games or just old-fashioned conversation until the lights and the worldwide web are back on again.
Kevin Kelly, who was affiliated with Ohio Valley Publishing for 21 years, resides in Vinton, Ohio.
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