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For Christmas and Chanukah, my family was home receiving presents during what should be a happy, relaxed time. Technology was obviously the hot gift this year. My sister got an iPod, which months later still sits in its box, unopened. My mom received a laptop that actually made it out of the box, but it lies dead in a corner because she cannot set up the necessary programs. My father is having a great time reading his new book, but his new cell phone is making him have fits. I, on the other hand, the only one in my family vaguely familiar with high-tech gizmos, am having a great time downloading music to my MP3 player.
It does not seem fair. Technology, by definition, is applying a systematic technique, method or approach to solve a problem. Sounds great, right? But, for my family members, technological gadgets seem to create more frustration and problems than they solve. In a world packed with technology that is supposed to make life easier, technology just ends up complicating things.
Obviously, my dad would agree. His cell phone could be helping him communicate with family, friends or employees, but with its microscopic buttons and various settings that must be programmed, all clash with my father’s desires.
In addition to the cell phone, email has become a common method to receive communication. My grandmother knows its popularity firsthand. When she signed up for the neighborhood garden club, she was asked for an email address since that was their primary way of relaying information. She didn’t have one, and as a result my grandmother was often embarrassed at meetings when the club expected her to bring geranium orion seeds, and she showed up with carrot seeds because she could not access email. Now that she has it, her password frequently eludes her, and even if she remembers it, typing is not her best asset.
Though technology makes communication unfair for many, this does not always hit people where it hurts (their wallet) the way online purchasing can. As my dad’s friend, Larry, discovered (and Consumer Reports confirmed), better deals are often found online. Larry bought a new TV at a store but would have saved $200 if he purchased it on the store’s website.
The iPod is increasingly popular because of its first-class sound and ability to hold lots of music and movies. It is a great idea on paper. The problem is my sister has only listened to others’ iPods, and she has never downloaded songs, because she doesn’t know how. Right now the iPod is a waste of $300 for the technologically challenged.
Even I have seen the injustice of technology. Having gone to a school that rarely used computers, a giddy feeling ran through me when my physics teacher told me my research on refrigerators would be presented
in PowerPoint. Putting it together took extra time because I had to learn how to create a new slide, put my information on the slide, make it look neat, and add a creative flair. I did receive an A, but the bit of techno-novice inside my brain forced me to need extra time, which affected my grades by decreasing study time for other subjects.
I have an answer to this problem. Explain the machines and programs to the novices even if that means forcefully jamming instructions into their old-fashioned brains by constantly displaying instructions in big, bold, block letters. Or perhaps the government can require schools to teach technology. If both fail, technology may have to take a step backwards and simplify. Who needs a micro cell phone if no one can use its micro keys? Perhaps companies will market the cell phones from five years ago when the bigger they are, the better, giving them the same appeal as today’s 50" TVs. And what is the use of advanced communication like email if some cannot get the information? Just send letters. Letters don’t need passwords.
Otherwise, we can jump ahead in the technological revolution and use technology to solve its own problem. Doctors, with the help of computer engineers, can implant microchips into our brains. That’s right, memory cards will be used to understand memory cards.
We must uncover a solution soon, or the gap between the technologically advanced and the technologically challenged will continue to grow and generations will find themselves sitting next to cavemen, lost in the Stone Age forever.