Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wayback Wednesday: Making Technology Easy

Every Wednesday, I republish old columns from years past. I've got 16 years of the things sitting in the garage, so they might as well serve some other purpose. This is one I originally published in 2004.

I used to be a technology whiz when I was younger. I could explain the difference between digital and analog stereo systems. I could explore the inner workings of my Macintosh computer. And I even knew how to program my VCR -- no mean feat 15 years ago.

Even today, I try to stay current with the latest technological trends. After all, technology has become such an integral part of our lives. We can watch TV on our computers. We can listen to the radio on devices the size of a pen. Cell phones, PDAs, and wireless laptops make it possible to communicate across vast distances without being tied down by cables and cords.

Even this column is made possible through email. While most people are reading this online, there are a few thousand people who read it in an honest-to-God real newspaper. But even then, it gets sent to the editor via email.

So technology is inescapable, unless you're a Luddite, in which case I'll make fun of you, since it's not like you're using a computer to read this anyway.

And most people love technology, because it will bring about new ages of exploration and discovery. It will allow us to reach beyond the stars, or explore the ocean floors. Technology can mean the difference between life and death for the sick, and it can help form friendships between people who have never met. But mostly, we use it to play video poker while we're waiting at the airport.

I was not always the most technologically adept in college, but I could have intelligent discussions with engineers and computer programmers about the latest advances in their field. I even maintained my level of interest as I entered the workforce, and used computers on a daily basis.

So I was in for a bit of a shock when I started working for a software company this year.

I've always considered myself fairly accomplished: I can frame a house, I can cook a gourmet meal from memory, and I can even speak in front of large crowds. But compared to the people I work with, I am to technology what a lit match is to a welder's torch.

And while I still respect technology, I'll never fully grasp its intricacies or subtle nuances. Instead, I leave that to the professionals and people who can tell you why they have to carry more than four pens in their pocket.

I know a guy whose idea of fun is to design and build electronic devices, whereas my idea of fun is to point a little box at a big box, and then the magical people who live inside the big box put on a show for me.

Needless to say, I feel like the caveman who discovers fire when some guy pulls up in a Ferrari and hands me a CD.

Working in the software industry has brought me in contact with a lot of technology experts, who I affectionately refer to as Tech Geeks (although not to their faces, since I'm afraid they'll electrify my office chair). And I try desperately to understand what they're saying to me, but I'm afraid the glazed look in my eyes will give me away. Basically, this is all I hear:

Tech Geek: We have to interface the fleeble with the grabnitz, or else we'll spalt the diodium cathodes.

Me: Splunge.

Tech Geek: But here's the exciting part. If we schmurtz the diodes with the fleurium-cooled coprosticulators, we'll actually be able to calculatize the yodat of a quaznot. Isn't that cool?!

Me: Yarp.

The worst part is, that as I look into their eyes, I can feel them mentally pleading with me to comprehend what they're saying. And they'll even adopt the international communication method of speaking louder, as if shouting will somehow make me understand.

Tech Geek: I SAID WE CAN GREBULATE THE SPRITSNARQ WITH THE OPTICULE!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

Me: I like candy.

Unfortunately, I only partially understand what they're saying, because I'm not even sure they're speaking English. Either that, or I recently suffered a blow to the head, and I haven't understood a single word anyone has said to me for months.

I suppose I could spend more time learning about technology. I could delve into the mysteries of electronics, computer programming, and even computational physics. And I've been asked on several occasions why I don't spend more time doing this. To that, I have one simple answer:

Snurg.


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