There’s a large rectangular white box sitting in our basement. It’s a basic white refrigerator and it has absolutely no bells or whistles. Two doors, freezer up top, fridge on the bottom. You set the temperature with a dial. The big add-on was some extra ice-cube trays.
At best estimate, it’s about 20 some odd years old and it’s lived in three different homes. In our first home, it served as our primary and only refrigerator. Since then, it’s been used and abused. Ignored and turned off. Turned on and neglected. But no matter what, it’s always worked and done it’s duty.
As a self-employed person, most of my ready cash goes to the government, the insurance people and what’s left over might make it into a retirement account. There’s not a lot for the latest in digital bells and whistles. So I work hard at keeping my tech up to date with the latest installations and when I do pick up a new piece of equipment, I make sure it is fully powered and going to last.
But it seems to me that in today’s digital environment we are slaves to the tech. At two years of age my once top of the line iPhone 6 is starting to have techno burps, farts and tantrums. A three-year-old iPad periodically disconnects itself from a Wi-Fi router that is sitting no less than two feet from it. An even bigger and more powerful router that is less than two years old tends to get into arguments with the Comcast cable box. Of course all of the Comcast lines in the neighborhood like to go on vacation periodically.
We are slaves to our tech. At last count, I had something like 125 different passwords on file to different sites. How many of them am I actually using? The passwords change frequently and while there are numerous handy little apps and built-ins on browsers that track it all for you, how many times have you found yourself repeatedly trying to get a new password sent to you by the site you’re trying to access?
It’s no longer enough to be proficient at MS Office. We also have to know a host of other digital programs and apps if we want to be attractive to a new employer or client. But ask yourself, what exactly did you get out of the latest update? The annual OS updates from Apple alternatively either slow down my machines, or offer “innovations” that seem pointless. Does anyone like the last few iterations of iTunes? To be fair, while some of these updates are nice to have, I don’t understand the hyperbole that accompanies them. Yes, it does make computing easier, sometimes. But I’m surprised it took you this long to figure out how to make this happen.
Please don’t get me started on what I think of MS Office updates.
Our tech is supposed to manage us, make our lives easier, make us happier. Does it? My friends who have the latest Apple Watch or similar digital minders seem to be constantly distracted by something twitching on their arm. At the beginning of many runs or bike rides, I find myself mildly annoyed with the Fitbit app because of some lag or error message or the simple fact that it exists and I feel compelled to turn it on. I’ve been known to give the finger to my poor iPhone because the free version of MayMyRide is chock full of pop ups, interruptions and requests to rate it. Then I feel irritated that I feel entitled not to want to pay for the pop up free version.
We used to have a washer and dryer that were, according to a home inspector, at least fifteen years old. “You should get another five years out of them,” he said, “They’re a little beat up so keep an eye out.” They lasted another ten and when the washer sprung a leak and made a lake in the basement, we replaced them with the latest in front end loaders.
“Well,’ said a repairman we had out to the house recently, “These new ones tend to burn out pretty quickly. You said it’s ten years old?”
I did a quick calculation and nodded.
“You’re lucky! Seven or eight is what I usually see for this model.”
Our cars send us emails when they don’t feel well or think they need something. They ping at us when a tire is running low. The more expensive cars tell you which tire. If you’re driving something a little more middle class, you have to guess or remember where you put your tire gauge.
I often curse at the cars so maybe it feels bad? It tells me that “The phone has been connected!” and then disconnect the phone. I like the idea of satellite radio, but do I want to get clipped for yet another monthly fee for some tech?
Let me make it clear, I’m not some Luddite wishing for the days when we had to cross the room to change the channel from CBS to ABC. I often appreciate the tech and think that much of it is nice to have.
But it seemed like analog refrigerators, TVs, cars, stereo systems and phone worked for us. They were there to serve us. They did exactly what we told them to do. To be honest that was not very much. But they did what they were told and if they didn’t, they were fixed.
Today, I often feel like I serve at the pleasure of my tech. I do what it tells me to do. I service my tech. When I’m not in awe of some of its capabilities, I have a queasy feeling that I’m not really in control of gadgets.