December 9, 2009

Love, hate, and technology

Our neighbor Lorraine Collins always has an interesting perspective on a wide range of topics. Here's another that should catch your interest -- and perhaps spur a comment or two. Her commentaries appear regularly in the Black Hills Pioneer, and she graciously allows us to share them with on-line readers here.

About 25 years ago when I bought my first computer, a Commodore 64, I knew I needed to learn about this new technology, so I innocently signed up for an adult evening class on computer programming. Needless to say, I didn't last long there. But I have always remembered a sign on the chalk-board. It said, "I hate my computer and think I will sell it. It won't do what I want it to, but only what I tell it."

This was an attempt to introduce me to the exacting world of communicating with computers. I'm still trying to learn how to do that. Nothing makes me madder than the computer that I love when it suddenly doesn't do what I think it should. It's sort of like the words of that old song, "You only hurt the one you love." Of course you only hurt the one you love, because the one you love is the only one who will be really hurt by whatever dumb thing you do.

As we know, many of us now have a whole lot more technology than any reasonable person needs. People drive down highways with cell phones stuck to their ears or, worse, concentrating on having their thumbs punch buttons to send a text message. What, we ask, are they thinking of? Why is it that we feel so compelled to be so constantly in communication that we have no surcease from the constant babble that goes on?

We should take lessons in meditation and yoga, in peaceful prayer, in silence and contemplation. We really need to take a break from this constant onslaught of instant and imperative communication. So I say, even as I invest in more technology to increase and enhance even more communication.

I have recently discovered and invested in something called a Webcam that can be attached to one's computer, enabling visual as well as sound communication with people far away. I realize that "telecommunication" is pretty old hat to those in business who apparently use it as a means of communicating with far flung offices, and telemedicine has been around for a long time, enabling doctors in a city to talk to patients and physician assistants or nurse practitioners in remote locations. But to have this means of communication in my house is really something.

In case your loved ones live as far away from you as mine do from me, let me tell you the benefits of the Webcam. After we sent the Webcam device to our daughter and son-in-law in Virginia and they hooked it up and we all subscribed to a free service, we could see and hear each other through the computer. We saw our 7-year-old grandson play the guitar and read us a book. We saw our 5-year-old granddaughter's costume for her ballet program. We saw the dog we've never met. All of this will be much improved once we get the new computer we've ordered, with a lot more speed and power and a new flat screen monitor.

Since we cannot see the people we love every day, month, or maybe even in a year, it's wonderful that this technology lets us share some few minutes with them now and then, by appointment. We hear the children giggle, hear the dog bark, see the lively goings on with that family. It's not the same as being there, of course, but it's a really good substitute.

Of course I've resisted every new technology that's come since 1984. so much to learn! So much to deal with! But I tell you, I've learned, and when I don't hate it, I love it.

Lorraine Collins is a writer who lives in Spearfish. She can be contacted at

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