Tuesday, May 27, 2014

You Just Can't Trust It - Book of Me

You can trust that every single morning the sun will rise.  Even if it's cloudy, it will be there.  And you can trust that in December winter will begin and the days will get longer, and that in June summer will begin and the days will get shorter.  The seasons will follow each other every single year of our lives in an unfailing cycle.  You can trust the sequence of the sun and the seasons.  You can bet your life on it.  But you just can't trust technology.

I'm thinking of technology in a broad sense, to include more than just electronic devices.  I include microwave ovens, refrigerators, washers and dryers, televisions, automobiles, telephones, refrigerators, audio systems, computers, cameras, cell phones -- all of them.  You can't trust them because sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, and you can never tell when something will malfunction or even just quit working altogether.  The best you can do is take good care of what you own and hope and pray you're never left in a lurch because technology failed.  (I think I hear someone saying, "Back up your files!" which is good advice but it doesn't prevent technology's malfunction or failure.)

My first introduction to technology was probably at birth when electric lights glared into my newly opened eyes.  My next experience may have been a few days later when I rode home in a car and, later still, heard the voice of an unknown person speaking or singing over the radio.  During my young years I benefited from food cooked in an electric oven and preserved in an electric refrigerator.  I heard the hum of an electric Singer sewing machine, and had warmth from a coal fire because coal was delivered by a man driving a dump truck.

By the time I was five I regularly saw people in a box in our living room.  (See photo at left with box on right.)  I eventually understood that it was a television and did not have little people inside and I also learned that there were no people in the radio.  I had answered the ring of the telephone and spoken to my grandmother through it.  I'd also helped my mother with the wash using her electric wringer washer.  Non-technological clothespins were still used to hang the clothes on a clothesline to dry:  no electric dryers yet.

My father seemed able to repair nearly all of the above types of technology devices except maybe televisions.  He seemed to have an innate ability to understand the workings of things and repaired them speedily and efficiently.  When electronic equipment became popular he either didn't have the interest or was too old to think of repairing those things that broke.

In my teen years I enjoyed a battery-operated, transistor radio which I could carry with me if I chose.  Next came 8-track tape players and cassette recorders/players.  I remember my father's first introduction to a cassette player.  I'd brought it home on loan and showed him how it worked.  He was so surprised.  We recorded several conversations and then listened to the recordings.  It wasn't long before he bought his own recorder/player.

When videocassettes became available we could watch movies we chose instead of according to the schedule and choice of broadcasting companies.  Then DVDs came along and we had even better viewing options than with videocassettes.

In high school I learned to type on a manual typewriter.  Later, while working in an office, there was a lovely electric IBM Selectric typewriter which offered several different fonts because of an interchangeable ball.  My next experience with more office technology was an early Apple computer.  I didn't like it.  After spending days and days typing an inventory of laboratory supplies, the inventory disappeared.  Gone, never to be seen again.  That was the beginning of my distrust of technology.  Those who knew computers couldn't find how it disappeared or to where and so I began the laborious and time-consuming processes of typing the entries in once again.  Eventually, in that same office, I was given a computer of my own to use.  Learning its ins and outs was trial and error -- classes were not offered.  I played and learned and was surprised and pleased (wow, it can do this!) and sometimes frustrated and disappointed (why does it do that?!).

Technology keeps advancing.  Sometimes I'm completely pleased, as with digital cameras, cell phones, scanners, and, generally, with computers.  But I have a healthy distrust of all things technology because I never know when they won't work or why.  It seems as time goes on, the slightly older technology becomes more reliable.  Or maybe we just get used to it, or learn how to use the devices better.

I try to imagine what my great-great-grandparents thought about locomotives, electric lights, indoor plumbing, gasoline-powered automobiles, Brownie cameras, telephones, and electric-powered appliances.  Maybe they were as surprised by and distrustful of those innovations as I sometimes am of our modern technological innovations.  Or maybe they welcomed the labor-saving aspects of washers and dryers, stoves and refrigerators.

Perhaps all of those were challenges to my parents and other ancestors when they were new, modern, and untested, but I doubt they caused them as much trouble as modern technology seems to cause me!  I just don't trust it to always do its job reliably.  (But I'd rather have it than not.)

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This is another post in The Book of Me, Written by You series, created by Julie Goucher of Anglers Rest.

The topic for this post was Technology.  The suggestions were:   What technology changes did your ancestors see?  What technology changes have you seen?  Did your family own one of those early changes? – such as television.  Do you like or dislike technology?  What do you think has been the best technological change in your lifetime and historically?



  1. Great thought provoking post Nancy! And I love your four seasons graphic!

  2. Excellent time capsule of technology. I wonder too about my ancestors and their experience with new-fangled inventions. Whenever I look at their old photos, I wonder if owning a camera was "a must" or "a luxury," did they have a GOOD camera or piece of junk.

  3. Good insight! It's interesting to go to the antique malls and realize that some of those things were once modern technology!


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