Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Rant Against Technology

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.


Anonymous said...

Amen, Janis. (See my earlier blog--Monday--on taming the Internet.)

You state the problem well, and beautifully, too. (But then, you are a writer.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


You sound just like my husband and myself. The changes in tech aren't always good at all, and in fact, quite irritating.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I hate having to learn new things--but seem to have to do it quite often. I use my iPad like a computer when I'm on a trip and it works well now that I have a regular keyboard to go with it.

Linda Andrews said...

I like technology after it has a bit of dust on it, but I really mourned the loss of Word 2003.

Patricia Smith Wood said...

Janis: I read your post to my husband who would have done cartwheels of delight if he could still do that sort of thing! His 'ancient' XP computer just blew up three weeks ago, and he's mourning the loss and trying to find or put together a machine that will allow him to keep his old programs. I, on the other hand, converted to a Mac five years ago and never looked back. I love my Mac and love the things it does.

We owned a computer company (up until retirement) where I was the president, and my hubby was the sales manager. I've always loved the latest gadgets, while he would still be driving his 1970 Toyota truck if he could! I confess I'm the bright, shiny bubble follower, but I do feel your pain. I'm finding the formatting issue with my manuscripts has devolved into a nightmare, no matter which computer platform you use.

Just know, you have LOTS of company out there, mourning the loss of XP!

Shalanna said...

I agree that it's change for the sake of change, for the sake of selling people all new stuff every couple of years. (I am old enough to remember that at the launch of the IBM PC in 1981, companies said, "You'll never have to buy another one! This one is IT!") I still run Word 2003 because the others have stuff I not only don't need, but feel is extraneous. You could get an old AlphaSmart 3000 to do just word processing--I still have mine and it still works well. But don't lose the cable you use to transfer the text to your big computer. The short attention span theater has pretty much taken over society, so anything you write that's longer than a sound bite is going to struggle, no matter what. Sigh!

Suzanne Brandyn said...

I also don't like change every five minutes, and changing some thing for the sake of change can be very confusing and frustrating.

I think if something works don't fix it. If it isn't working do fix it and make that change for the better.

There is nothing worse, as you said - you get use to something and they go and change it.

It's a bit like having a product you've purchased for so long, and suddenly it's no longer available. There is a bigger, better, product on the shelf. The only problem is, it doesn't work as good as the original product. :)

Barry Knister said...

I hope that made you feel better. Not to trivialize suffering and the plight of the poor, I now distinguish between the haves and the have-nots this way: the haves live with or have convenient access to young people who know all this stuff and are happy to help. The Have-nots are on their own. And never forget: all the change is NOT driven by progress, but by profit motive. When people are seduced into believing new is always better, there's lots of money to be made.

Kathleen Kaska said...

I understand your frustration, Janis. I'm convinced that word process programs are not designed by writers.

Vonnie said...

I totally, totally go along with every single one of your comments. I sometimes wonder whether the software developers realise they are alienating a large slice of the population through their constant upgrading etc. I know I have a dig-in-your-toes reaction. After 40 years of work, 30 of them using computers, about 40 different sets of hardware, easily 70 different software packages, I'm all techied out. Those who came lately to IT think it's great. Those of us who were in at the beginning know it's a tool - that's all, like a pen. Get over the constant change for the sake of change, you techie gits.

marja said...

Simplicity rocks! I'm so glad you posted this because I sometimes think I'm the only one who has a problem with these things constantly changing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the issue.
Marja McGraw

Carole Price said...

My frustration is that after only 3-4 years you can't update your computer. They force you to buy new!

Kate Willoughby said...

I always feel manipulated by the companies trying to make me feel dissatisfied with what I have, which is no way to go through life. :(

John Nelson said...

Janis, it's Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and on and on that drive me nuts with their constant changes.
As for your XP, don't worry, if you have good malware/spyware software then you should be able to continue using it until the machine itself gives up the ghost. I'm doing that with my Dell desktop and laptop. As for software, now that I have discovered Scrivener I think my search for the ultimate writer's tool has come to an end. Be of good cheer!

Maris said...

Janis, I totally agree with you regarding the "new and improved" changes the programmers make to word processing programs. Every time I have to update my Word program, I have to spend time figuring out where they've put the common formatting commands. I think they must sit around and devise ways to drive me crazy...and they're succeeding.