North of 50 - Would You Like an App With That?

By Colin Campbell

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When it comes to keeping up with technological change, I confess to having lost that battle around the time the transistor radio was invented. Now, my family is urging me to upgrade my cell phone and it’s causing me no end of grief.

I appreciate why they’re doing this. My current phone has one of those dopey little keyboards where the letters come in clusters of three and even four, designed for someone with fingers as delicate as toothpicks. As a result of my sausage-digit jabbing, family and friends puzzle to decode my responses to their texts: *Tanjk zou fnr xyooyr klind bhhirdazy wirrshirts. Cnnolim.*

For most people, I suspect, purchasing a new phone would be no big deal. They’d just amble into one of those phone places that look like airport washrooms, sign over their first born, and walk out minutes later with a shiny new Raspberry or Kamakaze. For me, it would be like Stephen Leacock attempting to withdraw two dollars from his account at the Mariposa bank.

That intimidating.

The problem is I’m not very good at taking instruction, although I did recently manage to scrape a pass in a night school course: Card Shuffling for Dummies. On matters technological, I need simple, clear-cut explanations delivered at a pace I can cope with. My experience with techie types is that they’re not that good at explaining stuff to the hard-of-learning. They assume too much, for one thing; take it for granted that you can tell an app from an amplifier. In my case, it took months of asking questions and scribbling notes before I twigged that programming the VCR was not rocket science, and then right when I was on the verge of getting the hang of the thing, the device went the way of civility and the wind-up car window.

That’s not to say that I’m a complete Luddite. I typed this on the computer, after all, and I can comprehend the difference between a download and an updraft, and appreciate that modems bear no connection whatever to houses of ill repute. I admit to having trouble recalling passwords – you need so many of the blessed things. But I’ve solved that little problem by writing them down in a notebook, which I store in my sock drawer away from prying eyes, comfortable that nobody would venture in there without a hazmat suit.

So, where does this leave me? Should I bite, or byte, the proverbial bullet and boldly go where no Colin has gone before? And if so, what will be my fate? Will I emerge with a comfortable understanding of the basic functions of a new and improved, but not too complex phone, grateful to the sympathetic young salesperson for his undying patience? Or, will I encounter some high-speed technoranter who’ll babble away about the merits of the Elderberry Mark V Smartphone’s “light emitting diode pretzel optimizer with high resolution embedded multifacer gigabyte doohickey, and Martian android interceptor capabilities,” until my head spins and I fall over?

Will I then get completely flusterpated, and end up signing a life-long contract that requires me to pay hundreds of dollars a month, plus do 8,000 hours of community work and undertake not to come within 10 kilometres of a Better Business Bureau?

I can’t do it. The more I think about it, the process is likely to be about as pleasant as negotiating with a car dealership on a trade–in price for my 1998 Ford Fidgit.

For now anyway, the family is just going to put up with my wayward tappings. Besides, I’m doing them a favour: like crosswords and Sudoko, the exercise of decoding is stimulating for the brain.

They should appreciate the mental workout.




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