Alibi V.15 No.36 • Sept 7-13, 2006 

Punch Line

Low-Tech in a High-Tech World

iPods, BlackBerries, satellite radio. The boom in new technology media and communication products has transformed the way we interact as humans. It has also created a modern equivalent of the Cro-Magnon man called techno-interruptus, which is a guy like me who doesn’t understand how to use most of this new stuff.

I never thought of myself as a Neanderthal. But when I found myself slapping the side of my laptop to try to get some audio to work, I realized maybe all this new technology was starting to stress me out.

Nowadays, my friends call me LT. It sounds kind of cool and tough like a gangster nickname. But it really stands for Low-Tech.

There’s no getting around it. Wanna talk to your daughter? Text page, please. Keep in touch with a group of friends? MySpace. Having a party? Better send an e-vite. Want the latest information and political gossip? Check the blogs, dude.

I used to think technology would connect us and make life easier for everyone. Now I think it's a cruel joke being played on me by a former math teacher who wrote in my yearbook, “I hope you do the kind of math you are capable of doing in the seventh grade.”

I know I should be doing my banking online and stop using those little sheets of paper the viejos call “checks.” I know I should book my flights and hotels online and stop calling my friend the travel agent who now calls herself a “vacation consultant.”

Right now, I'm using this handy new device called a computer. It's kind of like a typewriter, only you don’t have to keep putting paper in and you need substantially less Wite-Out.

I tried sending a letter to a relative the other day. I actually hand-wrote it and hand-addressed the envelope. I found out this is illegal under the new antiterrorism laws. They scanned it for anthrax and ended up having to call in the bomb squad. I guess I should have just e-mailed my godmother. Not as personal, but less chance of ending up at FBI headquarters.

Don’t get me wrong. I've tried to keep up. I have a drawer of old attachments, chargers and power cables from previous cell phones and other communication devices. It's like the land of misfit toys. I’m actually thinking of creating a sculpture out of it called “Ode to Obsolescence.” At least it might be worth something.

You have to understand, I grew up in the days of eight-tracks and headphones the size of a football helmet. My house was robbed once while I was home listening to an eight-track of Boston with a matchbook stuck in the top of the player to make sure it was aligned properly. I never heard the burglars, and those hi-fi headphones that made me look like Princess Leia also substantially diminished my peripheral vision.

I still call music collections “albums,” which gets me a laugh from my nieces and nephews. Now, if you talk too much about a CD you are considered out of touch. With all the music you can download to your iPod, who uses CDs anymore, really? Only investment advisors, I guess.

For folks under 30 and those with higher math SAT scores, all this new technology is second nature. Most folks 30 to 50, like me, are grudgingly using new technology because they have to for work, or so their kids, friends or family don't think they're senile. I don’t really know what the 50-plus crowd is doing, but I would wager to say most of them are not jamming to the “Very Best of Tom Jones” on their iPods.

Between my cell phone and BlackBerry, it's impossible for me to say to anyone trying to find me, “Sorry, I was out of reach.” Even in a rural state like New Mexico, I can be found anywhere by cell phone or e-mail. No more dodging the crazy relatives, ex-girlfriend or neurotic boss. They know how to find you.

The Internet has also really put a damper on education for students everywhere. No longer can students say, “I couldn’t find any information on asteroids for my term paper.” Thirty minutes on Google and the Internet will yield enough information for a dissertation. Some of it is even credible.

I am sure a day is coming soon when all of our communication and media will be carried out by a single device that will probably be embedded in our skull or something. At least that will cut down on the number of devices I have to carry around and subsequently lose, and I can use that junk drawer for something else.

So maybe all of this constantly evolving communications technology isn't just a conspiracy to keep us all buying new and improved stuff. And maybe it is helping us to communicate more--even if it's not in person. Maybe the Internet, cell phone, satellite revolution will promote prosperity and democracy around the world.

But I have to say, it all makes me feel like a caveman. I can’t keep up. And I have to say to those technology enthusiasts--take it easy on those of us on the low-tech side. Please don’t ridicule us for having a laptop the size of luggage. Please don’t scold us for wanting our own space instead of MySpace. And don’t be alarmed if you get a hand-addressed letter from us in your mailbox. It will not harm you. We promise.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. E-mail