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Published: Sunday, 11/13/2005

Technology is a blessing and a curse

If the scientific world is looking for another way to test the grasp of senior mentality, it might be how well we take to technical equipment.

Young folks seem to take more readily to computers, cellular phones, and digital cameras than do the people who spend Social Security checks for such advanced technology. We say we can't live without them if we want to stay current and blend in with the grandchildren's crowd. But there are days that we can't live with new technology, either.

Looking back on other technological advances during my lifetime, I seemed to master them more quickly and with more confidence. When an automatic gas furnace replaced the old furnace that was fueled by hand-shoveled coal, the dial on the wall thermostat was like magic. When a luxury car offered a seat warmer and seat positions, I figured them out in a heartbeat.

When television sets came into the picture in American homes, it didn't take us long to learn how to use them. The microwave oven was more challenging, unless you were using it just to bake a potato or reheat coffee and cooked foods. I still don't know how to cook a meal in a microwave, other than a frozen dinner. But if someone took my microwave away I would cry.

When my computer freezes or the Internet carrier screams "connection lost" it is frustrating, and I long for my old typewriter that only needed a new ribbon occasionally, but otherwise ran like a noisy top.

The new toys aren't cheap. About 10 years ago I invested $1,800 in a new laptop computer. Laptops ensure that I can write while I'm on the road. Two months ago I was told the switch couldn't be repaired. Besides, the young technicians advised, the computer was obsolete and should be thrown away. The 21-year-old salesman looked at it as if it was a candidate for the Antiques Roadshow.

Nine hundred dollars later I am getting acquainted with a new laptop.

Decisions to buy a digital camera and a cell phone were easy. I sat on the 35-millimeter camera in the car seat and broke the switch. The cell phone fell in water.

There must be more excitement to having a digital camera than I have learned or discovered, but I am determined to master it this winter in my travels. If my feelings about the digital don't improve, it will be $450 misspent and I will get the old Panasonic point-and-shoot model fixed.

We don't have to be crazy about all new technology just because the younger generation has endorsed it.

If the cell phone replacement hadn't cost $149 the story could be amusing. You know how it is with a cell phone. Keep it with you at all times because someone just may call. That's why the phone was on my lap while I was getting a pedicure, specifically while my feet were soaking in the tub of hot sudsy water. What may have been my biggest Whoops! ever happened when the phone fell into the water. My scream brought technicians to my aid. The longer they pawed through the soapy water the harder my red phone was to find.

The phone was declared dead on arrival at the repair shop. The new phone is probably already outdated. It does not take pictures. Good heavens, that's what I bought the camera for.



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