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Written by: Byron Edgington
Date: September 8, 2015

Flickr-Dads-and-Technology-by-Laura-ThorneHere’s a two-minute video to watch before reading the rest of today’s entry. (A bit of explanation: this short video is one I’m using in my aviation safety presentations to demonstrate ambiguity in communication, the age-old problem of people being separated by a common language.) Watch the video and enjoy, then come on back.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjXTOlsE8k0

Pretty cute, don’t you think? Turbo Entabulator? Conductors and fluxes? Magneto reluctance? Tell me you understood every single word this eminent scientist/technologist/geek uttered.
Here’s the thing. As we get older and attempt to re-launch and reorient as the ‘unretired generation,’ we find ourselves more and more pitted against dynamic, evolving, often confounding, bewildering technological hurdles. Every day, it seems, some new wiz-bang, marvel-making, boy-howdy application or system is thrust upon us, forcing us to abandon the system and/or app we just learned (badly) last week. The technology changes so quickly, and is replaced so often, that it’s tempting to just give up and look for a cave to settle into until society’s infatuation with Turbo Entabulators goes away.

 

While my new Prius sports all manner of innovative and earth-friendly gadgets and options, when the car rats me out, and tells my dealer I’m ignoring overdue maintenance on my panametric spurving bearings, prompting a scolding from some young whippersnapper behind a desk at the Toyota shop, it makes me want to go back to a vehicle lacking such amenities as semi-boloid slots on the stator. That fire engine red ’68 MGB convertible was broke much of the time, but I miss that simple, straightforward little car. Besides, when its nover-trunnions spit up, and they did that a lot, I could darn well fix them myself, and the car never squealed on me, either.
Here’s my latest challenge: Hearing aids. After flying helicopters for nearly forty years— aircraft lacking differential girdle springs, thus quite loud—I acquired a rather extensive and fairly life-limiting hearing loss. My sweet spouse reached a point of irritation with me that I decided, after much reluctance, to visit my friendly neighborhood VA clinic and address the problem. The result, I’m happy to report, is that the new audio enhancement devices work. My wife and I can carry on a conversation for the first time in years, even with the dishwasher running! What’s with all the birds, though? The crickets? Tree frogs at night? Has the world always been this noisy?
No matter. The devices work, and I’m glad of it. And that would be enough all by itself, but no… As you might imagine, the new hearing aids come fully outfitted with, and synched up to, an app for my iPhone. The application allows me to alter the sound level inside each tiny earpiece, and it even gives me options based on various scenarios such ‘All Around,’ ‘Restaurant,’ and ‘Outdoor.’ One might think, as I did, that a company cranking out hearing aids would leave well enough alone tech-wise, but no. In order to compete in today’s marketplace every device, widget and appliance must—simply must—have some kind of computerized connection.
What is the point of all this? What’s this to do with Next Avenue, and moving into a new phase? Well, regardless of what direction or endeavor we choose for our new life vector, we’re confronted with tech challenges. It’s the intersection of geriatrics and electronics. Unless we decide to sit in our cave and knit humorous placeholders, or volunteer at all-night, candlelight readings of the classics, Moby Dick, War and Peace, Beowulf, we need to immerse ourselves in technology and its challenges. It’s unavoidable. If we want to interact with this new world, we must learn to deal with magneto reluctance and reciprocation dingle-arms. Deal with it.

 

When I grew up, and when most of you did, I’m guessing, life was, shall we say, a bit simpler. Phones had cords. We rolled down car windows. The TV had three channels, until midnight when the test pattern appeared. Hospitals had cigarette vending machines. My initial brush with high-tech may have been when I was eight, and demonstrated to my brother the fascinating, (yet somewhat perplexing to my mother) revelation that our newly acquired garbage disposal would not, in fact, do a root beer bottle. That may explain part of my hearing loss, come to think of it.
Here’s the upshot. As we re-launch ourselves, new applications, systems and technological marvels confront our efforts. (I had a set of spine-tingling, curse-producing computer glitches while writing this post). We can choose to arm wrestle them, greeting them as adversaries to be challenged, or we can test the theory of neuroplasticity and greet them as friendly gateways to our new world and learn something along the way. I chose the latter route. I have even, I’m happy to report, made nice with a thing called Powerpoint, Mr. Gate’s’ answer to the Etch-a-Sketch. Plus, things are working well with the new hearing aids, so that’s something. It’s nice chatting, not yelling, with my wife. Nice hearing the birds and frogs again. To my knowledge the devices have not, as yet, reported back to the VA that I sometimes slouch around my cave, or schlep to Kroger without them installed. If some young whippersnapper from the VA phones to scold me, I intend to use my iPhone app and mute the call.

 

One last thought. If you’re like me, and challenged by technology & its maddening pace of change, here are a couple of resources. Lynda.com is a site with more than 30,000 (not a typo) expert and easy to follow tutorials that cover everything from Adobe to Z scores. I recently used Lynda.com to work my way through Powerpoint creation, and it showed me twitchy, gnarly neato things I had no idea even existed. Another resource: the next door neighbor’s eleven-year-old.