Saturday, September 25, 2010

I Am Surrounded by Gadgetry

I recently attended a conference on how technology will affect newspapers. The session I chose to participate in dealt with how people are likely to receive their news in the future.

Truth is, I alternate between wishing I had been born 10 years earlier and could watch this revolution in our business from retirement on the front porch rocker, to being amazed at how the business in which I have spent my entire adult life has changed so radically — and how fascinating earning a living during this upheaval will be.

It also provides me an excellent excuse to buy lots of gadgets. Already I’m thinking about upgrading to the new iPhone4, though it is totally unnecessary since my iPhone3 works just fine. But there is a nearly 13-year-old future daughter in Texas just salivating over the possibility of inheriting my older iPhone. So that’s an incentive, since I do love to make that child happy.

The dark side of all this gadgetry is I am not particularly adept at learning how to use it, being 55 years old and someone to whom learning such skills does not come naturally. I never learned how to program a VCR, for example. I keep the instruction booklet to my Nikon D9 digital SLR in my 30-year-old Domke camera bag for frequent referral — when I forget how to change the ISO settings, for example. If the almost-teen is within reach, I usually just hand it to her and get her to figure out how to use whatever gadget we’re talking about.

Her mother received an Apple iPad as part of her professor job. The child, of course, within minutes had taught me all I needed to know about using it, which isn’t terribly different than the iPhone, though it is larger and cooler — except you can’t make calls. But it is one of those devices that would be lovely to have for reading Web sites, newspapers online, even the occasional movie while on a long airplane flight. But I would never shell out $850 or so for one.

Take the Blackberry. Please. Moving here required inheriting a second cell phone, this Blackberry. That’s what we use at the paper. I’m under indentured servitude for the iPhone along with my Beautiful Mystery Companion and aforementioned child. So I now carry around two cell phones.

We just upgraded cell phone plans at the paper. At first my boss and I opted for a “droid,” which is Google’s version of an iPhone. Thank goodness the boss hated it, and we opted to just get a newer version of the Blackberry. I was dreading trying to figure out how to use yet another device just when I had learned enough about how to use the Blackberry to answer calls and view e-mails.

The other night, the new Blackberry decided to lock its keypad. I had nothing to do with this event. But it said I would have to unlock the keypad to use the phone. I could find no button that said lock, tried turning the phone on and off, began randomly just pushing keys without success. Finally in frustration I shoved the phone back in its leather holster while muttering imprecations to the technology spirits and longing for the days when my life wasn’t tethered to a cell phone.

That did the trick. I don’t know what the heck I did, but shoving it into the holster somehow unlocked the phone. I was back in business, though I have no idea how I locked the phone or unlocked it. One of my life rules concerning computers or anything related to them is to never question when something that wasn’t working starts behaving again. Just be grateful and go on about your business. Leave the analysis to folks better qualified than me.

Back at the conference, I learned folks would increasingly get their news on their phones, iPads and devices we haven’t even imagined. Fine by me. I figure as long as we keep reporting the news, it doesn’t matter how folks receive it.

The conference organizers were giving away an iPad at the conference’s close as an incentive to keep folks sticking around on a Friday afternoon in downtown Kansas City.

Yep, I won the iPad. Thanks to the tutelage from the almost-teen, I even know how to use it. It is pretty darned cool. Guess I will stick around the business and see what this brave new world will bring, after all. Besides, I need the paycheck.

Originally published in the Junction City (Kansas) Daily Union, September 25, 2010


  1. You're remarkably tech-savvy for a geezer. I love my new 4G. It's much faster!

  2. Gonna buy one soon. Can't resist it, though I should.