Over the years, I’ve had to adapt to many new computer systems, and I’ve always taken a practical approach: expect glitches and be skeptical about what the instructors say – especially when their presentations make even the simplest operations seem a lot more complicated than need be.
One of my first experiences with this phenomenon was while I was the managing editor of a weekly newspaper in Titusville, Florida, in the late ’70s. I had been using Harris computers at the daily paper affiliated with our publication for a couple of years, and had become comfortable with them. (The reporters would type their stories on scanner paper, using an IBM typewriter, and then send the stories by courier to the main plant, in Cocoa, 18 miles away. The stories were then scanned into the main computer system, and I’d drive over to prepare them for publication.)
After about two years, the company decided to install two computers at our office that would tie into the main system via telephone lines; this was in the days before broadband, when dial-up service was the only means to transmit data. Keep in mind that the new computers weren’t laptops or other modern high-speed models, but were, by today’s standards, clunky cathode ray tubes or CRT computers.
I felt confident about my ability to teach my staff how to use the computers, until Harris sent a trainer to our satellite office, and the instructor’s explanations of how to use them were so confusing that I wouldn’t have understood them had I not been using the same type of computer for two years.
After she left, I made a management decision: Instead of having the staff follow the computer company trainer’s instructions, I worked with our editorial assistant to write an easy-to-understand manual so our reporters could easily use the new equipment. Written in plain language, our homemade effort served our staff well.
Unfortunately, my eagerness to embrace new technologies didn’t carry over to my cellphone, which I typically would keep to until I had no choice but to switch to a newer model.
For instance, more than 15 years ago, I held on to an older cellphone that couldn’t send texts, until being forced to get a flip phone. At that time, my daughters – both of whom had smartphones – bombarded me with text messages until I knew how to create and send them.
I grew to love my flip phone, but I recently had to surrender it because its 3G service won’t be supported as of March, when cellphone providers plan to increase their 5G service at the expense of 3G.
The good news is that even though I was first told that none of my data – texts, photos and contacts – would be able to be transferred to the new phone, it turned out that my contacts were able to be saved. But that didn’t prevent other obstacles from cropping up.
My wife and I initially had planned to take advantage of an offer from our current internet and cable provider to sign up for its mobile-phone service for the entire family. So we went to one of its retail stores, where we successfully transferred our daughters’ phones to the new provider. But then came three glitches, for unknown reasons:
That was the last straw, so my wife and I kept our current cellphone provider, and I got a 5G smartphone.
The transition has been a work in progress, mainly because I’ve always been a computer-and-mouse person and had never previously used a touch-screen device.
The hope is that I’ll eventually come to appreciate my “smartphone,” but a part of me still pines for my “dumb” old flip phone, which easily fit into my pants, shirt, vest or jacket pocket and came without a gaggle of apps that I’ll seldom use.
The bottom line for the foreseeable future is that if you’re expecting a text or call back from me, be patient. It’s not easy dragging this fossil into the 2020s.
LARRY KESSLER (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer based in North Attleboro. He blogs at larrytheklineup.blogspot.com.