by Janis Patterson
In case I haven’t said it before, I hate technology.
On a lot of my writers’ loops there have been conversations about formatting, with members giving each other hints about this and that. Now I speak four languages with reasonable fluency, but not one of them is ‘techy’ and there is not one word in those posts that I understand beyond ‘a’, ‘an’, ‘the’, etc. It’s like being plopped down in an alien world.
Don’t get me wrong. There are parts of this brave computerized world I like, such as simple word processing and the ability to change and print a manuscript at will. I like email and surfing the ‘net. I like being able to play backgammon (am I the only one who plays that now?) and Scrabble (no one I know will play with me) with the ease of a few mouse clicks.
What I don’t like is the constant change. I am not good with change in anything, but the way the computer geeks keep improving programs into complete unusability (in full sarcasm mode here) simply drives me wild. Worst of all, it seems that they don’t do it for any particular reason – they just do it because they can and there are tech-happy geeks who will buy it hot off the presses, whether it really works or not. I have an old Dell laptop with XP and Office 2003 on it. The only Office features I have ever used are Word (obviously) and Excel (spreadsheets are wonderful for keeping track of characters and timelines and daily progress),
Because of the imminent demise of XP (sob), I acquired a Gateway with Windows 7 and Office 2010. I do like the bigger screen (laptop, 17 inches) but that’s about it. Everything is so busy. Pictures flash. Colors change. Even the cards on the Solitare game are so fussy-fied that they’re distracting. Everywhere things dance and flip and do all kinds of weird things. And yes, I have gone into settings and turned off everything I can, but some just don’t!
The best ancillary writing tool I ever had was an ancient NEC pocket computer. It did a basic form of Word, fit easily into almost every purse I owned, went to just where I stopped writing whenever I turned it on (no lengthy start-up protocol – once set, just on-and-off), had an incredible battery life and let me do nothing but put words down. I loved it dearly and used it until it simply rolled over and died beyond resurrection. There’s never been anything so good for a writer who is away from their home computer a lot.
Here is where the pad and tablet people shout, “But have you tried…?” The answer is no, and I don’t want to. First of all the new pads et all are distressingly fragile. They have too much on them –games and internet movies and IMs and for all I know can make missiles lift off somewhere. I don’t want to be distracted. I want to be able to put words on ‘paper’ in a simple way on a simple device that is both pretty much indestructible and portable. On my office computer I want simple, clean functionality.
It seems today that computers etc are made for gamers and geeks who, like children running after soap bubbles, want what is new and shiny and next. I don’t. I want solid, simple tools and don’t see why the computer gods don’t let people like me have them. I don’t see why every few years I have to learn new programs and put up with different bells and whistles, all of which are totally unnecessary to me and takes time away from my work – putting words on ‘paper.’ It all comes down to money, of course, but if the computer companies are that desperately greedy I would be willing to pay a reasonable license fee every few years just to be able to keep the programs I have now.
But that’s too simple, of course. They have to show off their expertise and what they can do – and rake in a fortune from the soap-bubble chasers. What they haven’t yet learned is or even want to understand is that change for the sake of change is not progress.