Middle Age and Technology

Last weekend, I had an existential crisis. It was a turning point. We all have them, especially when we hit middle age. Do I hold on fiercely to all that I knew before, or do I adapt to current realities? Do I insist that the tea kettle with the duct tape, whistle that sounds like a bird being strangled, and scorch marks from 30 years ago is worth holding onto or do I buy a newfangled electric plug-in thingy that shuts off automatically and keeps my house from burning down? Do I continue to back up my laptop and workstation to thumb drives and external hard drives, or do I soar into the cloud?

canstockphoto12569675I value pragmatism, but mine is exacerbated by an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it mentality. I’ve restrained myself by waiting years to buy the latest gadget. You know, until all the bugs are worked out, the price drops, and everyone has stopped yammering on about it. And this is the good fortune I’ve sailed on – no catastrophic failures or unrecoverable data.

I don’t buy anything with an i in front of it, because I like to be able to change a #$ !@ battery myself without calling in a tech team. I like messing about with Android developer options and not dealing with proprietary, hamstringing restrictions. My Creative Zen MP3 player is ten years old and has been disassembled and reassembled numerous times. It still works and I use it every day. My workstation has been wonderfully stable with Windows 7 for years.

canstockphoto4547623My unlocked LG smartphone was purchased on Amazon and I had to cut down the SIM card from my old phone to make it work. Over the years, I’ve learned how to hack and strip down bloatware on phones and computers. I’ve upgraded memory and added second drives. I’m not a whiz – I’m just not afraid of breaking things. And I know how to find instructions. My husband is a tech guy and is forbidden to touch my computers or phone. I like solving things myself.

So one would think that I’d not be so resistant to change. But this is where age comes in – resistance is growing. I can feel it. Maybe it’s the sheer exhaustion of the last twenty years, where technology has changed so quickly that one feels like it’s constantly adapt, adapt, adapt. There is a sense that consumerism is often driving “needs” for products more than actual need. And again, if you have a stable system that meets your needs, why upgrade?

I am reminded of my grandfather, who would have celebrated his birthday this month. canstockphoto12114640.jpgHe loved listening to Big Band music – Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller. He never cared for newer music. I think about that a lot – this idea that we get stuck in a certain time. A time when life felt simpler, when we remember being happy and carefree. Music is a strong trigger for memory. If I hear the J. Geils Band, I am reminded of summer nights, driving my Monte Carlo with the windows down. Until the tape cassette had to be turned over.

Sometimes I have that sort of nostalgia for technology. I miss my Nokia E73, a solid little phone with a physical button keyboard. It didn’t feel like plastic, didn’t require man hands to hold, and had a little notification light that blinked to let me know I had a message. I didn’t need or want internet – I just wanted my emails and phone messages.

As I’ve been stepping up my writing game, I’ve been getting in my own way. My redundancy system of syncing my laptop and workstation through USB drives and memory sticks has impeded my work mobility and makes me nervous that I’ll forget which system I need to sync to. Using Scrivener for my novels and Word for shorter pieces means I’m dealing with different file types and sometimes find myself writing novel scenes in Word, to be cut and pasted into Scrivener. This is all to say that my aging brain is prone to freaking itself out with anxiety that I’m going to delete large portions of my work.

canstockphoto37103500This weekend, I upgraded my workstation to Windows 10, cursing every step of the way. The new approach to technology is to essentially take as much control out of the user’s hands as possible, forcing various forms of indentured servitude to tech companies. Some people delight in this carefree process. I do not. I have to spend the next month hunting up hacks for a zillion little things I hate. This is not to say it’s a bad system, but change itself is becoming something I don’t handle as well. And that depresses me a bit.

So now my work is in the cloud – backed up prodigiously on both laptop and computer, but automatically. My collection of USB sticks is just a pile of has-beens. And I’ll still do my weekly backup on an external drive. One would think I was safeguarding Facebook data or something. Only, of course, in a way that actually has some safeguards.

canstockphoto10987169.jpgChange is difficult. Technological change, doubly so. But I know it isn’t going to end and I have to break down my natural resistance to change in order to not become as defunct and useless as a tape cassette.

24 Comments on “Middle Age and Technology

  1. We ain’t seen nothin’ yet! The Artificial Intelligence Revolution is already upon us. AI, in conjunction with robotics, will make many people functionally obsolete. Human beings won’t be able to compete with AI and robotics. In many ways we are already becoming subservient to AI. The economic dislocation and resulting social and political turmoil will be . . . No, stop me, I shouldn’t predict the future, but this future is not 10 or 20 years away. It’s all around us already, and profound changes will be seen in fewer than 10 years.

    Liked by 2 people

      • LOL. Be careful what you wish for. No technical or scientific breakthroughs necessary. The research has been done and the technology to do as you suggest already exists. Old-fashioned ethics resists using it for those purposes, but how long will ethics hold out against temptation?

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Boy, could I relate to this! You gave me a smile and made me feel less alone, though I am way more a tech curmudgeon than you. I got Windows 10 because it came with the laptop I needed to buy after keys started falling off my old one, which ran various software that was no longer supported. That’s how they get you — get on board or get excluded. Damn them!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is how they get you. Or you buy a new, cool program and it won’t work on your ancient system. It seems, too, that the obsolescence cycle is getting shorter and shorter and the consumer poorer for it. Still, I have to admit the smooth scroll typing on Windows 10 and my new office software (finally upgraded from 8 year old software) is pretty enjoyable. Everything else, including having to have an MS account, is irritating. But still, the typing…that’s all I really need, right?

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  3. Ha! I loved reading this and can relate. I recently became a lot less dependent on modern technology when I dug my manual typewriter collection out of the garage. Not only did my writing improve, my head became clearer, my mind sharpened and I found a new vocation. Now I restore and sell manual typewriters, (ironically my shop, Teipiadur is online)
    and even though I rely on the internet to sell my manual machines, at least there’s balance between my digital and analog life.
    Thanks for sharing your story!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow – that is so cool that you found a new passion out of all of that. I looked at your site and oohed and ah-ed at the typewriters. How do people find the ribbons for them? I don’t know if I have the finger strength for them. Growing up, we were using electric. This latest generation barely knows how to type (I’ve witnessed it at the high school level), but they can beat the heck out of me with their texting speed. Different skills for different eras, I guess!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Michelle, thanks for looking, yes it’s been a great discovery, finding joy in restoring these beautiful typewriters that are built to outlive us all. Ribbon is remarkably easy to find, inexpensive and a new one generally lasts 3 months for the average user. As for finger strength, you’re right – some machines require more than others. Fortunately many have touch adjusters that allow one to select a setting according to individual finger strength, thereby eliminating fatigue.
        Interestingly enough, it’s the millennials who are really gravitating towards the manual typewriter – about half my sales have gone to 35 or under aged first time users. My oldest customer to date is 94, her son bought it for her – she said she was sick of trying to remember her passwords and plug in everything, God love her.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s interesting about the finger-strength adjustment. I think I’d love an old Underwood, but I’m grateful for word processing. It’s sort of like the difference between taking photos that have to be processed and digital cameras. One is allowed to make so many more errors and at not too high a cost! And I make an inordinate amount of mistakes typing!

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  5. I consider myself middle-aged since I plan to live to be well over 100. I’ve always been slow to adopt new technology, about 10 years behind the curve. But, I come around eventually. I never owned a computer until the year 2000, preferring an electric typewriter until then.

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    • I often wonder how I even got through college with my electric typewriter. A lot of white-out, if I recall. There are advantages to being a slow adopter, especially since new tech is often released without all the bugs worked out.

      Liked by 2 people

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  9. Heh. I find myself going to other way. I used to want all the latest/greatest – I had the Palm Pilot as soon as it came out. And several generations of Palm and Blackberry Smart phones. Now that I’m middle aged, I’m much slower to upgrade . . . my iPhone is 5 years old – the horror! 😉

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    • Sorry for the late response – I missed this comment. I am a late adopter just because I can’t stand all the updates that inevitably follow a new release. Or batteries that set themselves on fire in your hand. Also, buying things a few years late tends to be a lot cheaper. So, great – in middle age, I’ve become incredibly cautious and cheap. Can’t wait to see what my 60s turn me into!

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