Am I a Luddite?

Twice in the last week, actually within 18 hours, I was referred to as a Luddite. Once, you can ignore; twice, you have to think about it.

Time number one was Thursday afternoon, when I was expressing frustration with some technology at work, how it changes often and not always for the better. The young woman said, “And you just want it to work.” “Yes, and I don’t want to have to look under the hood,” to use an automotive metaphor. Of course, even car mechanics can’t look under the hood anymore without complicated diagnostic computer technology anymore. If wanting it to work without hassle makes me a Luddite, then I am.

Time number two was Friday morning, when one of my racquetball partners was going on about the wonders of being able to watch cable television on his cell phone. I furrowed my brow and said, “Why would you want to watch TV on a two-inch screen?” Informed that the screen was larger than usual, I corrected myself; “OK, a three-inch screen.” If not being an early adopter of technology is being a Luddite, then I’m so there.

I had to laugh when I read this from Lefty Brown: “I’m behind the curve when it comes to technology. I’ve just started listening to podcasts.” And he’s thinking of starting one of his own this year. I’m planning a podcast, too…in 2011.

Truth is, mechanical stuff has never come easily to me. I need to be shown. I cannot be told. I cannot Read The Manual. Just this week, I was trying to design an e-mail template. I was sent instructions, which I was following, until I realized that I had to keep some window open that I had closed – NOT EXPLAINED IN THE MANUAL – and I had to start all over again.

Also at work, we’ve been putting together PDF files to send to clients. Well, I couldn’t get this AT ALL. Then, someone SHOWED me, and I discovered how easy the task was. But reading about it simply did not help me.

In my first days of my job, some 14 1/2 years ago, I was operating something called an electronic bulletin board, which involved doing a lot of things at the C:\ prompt of my computer, i.e., in DOS. This despite the fact that I had no idea what an EBB was, or what it was used for, or DOS commands, for that matter. Fortunately, this very patient guy named Kevin showed me a lot of stuff over a two-day period, and I became rather proficient at it. A useless skill now, but it showed that I am teachable.

I LIKE some technology, but some technologies don’t like me. I remember that wife Carol has gotten a lovely VCR from her brothers, but we never used it except to play tapes, because the tuning took three people three hours and it still wasn’t right. Whereas MY VCR was so idiot-proof that, with the onscreen instructions, I was able to set it up in about 10 minutes. The DVR is wonderful, because I can easily watch programs out of order of when I recorded them and easily switch from skating (my wife’s primary interest) to JEOPARDY, e.g.

I never got an eight-track because I realized what a stupid technology it was when I was in someone’s car, listening to The Beatles Again, when the song “Rain” stopped in midsong to change tracks. It’s a three-minute song, FCOL! A stupid technology.

I never got a Betamax machine, but that was only because the competing technologies made me nervous; I didn’t own a VCR until Beta was essentially dead. I’m feeling similarly disinterested in BluRay or BluTooth, or whatever is competing with something else; I’ll wait until it all shakes out before deciding that I need it.

Need. So far, I don’t NEED a Palm Pilot, or XBox. Or even a cell phone, though virtually everyone says I will when Lydia gets older, and maybe that’ll be true. Or maybe there will be some other technology to replace it. Cell phones: a mixed technology. Useful in cases of emergency, but I’ve never wanted to be available 24/7, thank you.

Anyway, I don’t think I have anything on Ned Ludd, the original Luddite, who used to smash machines to try to forestall the Industrial Revolution. Though I did write a little cheer for him:
Captain Ludd
He’s our man
If he can’t do it
Don’t need to be done.


Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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