It is cliche to say that kids are the ones who best understand technology and older people who struggle with it - a cliche, yes, but true.
Last week, my wife got us new cell phones. We switched from Verizon to AT&T because she wanted to get an i-Phone.
Because I really didn't want or need an i-Phone, and because we couldn't afford two of them, I got a regular phone as part of the deal. It replaced a cell phone I had for the last couple of years. This was a squat little machine, like a rabbit's suitcase, and pretty basic. In fact, it may have been operated by steam.
My new phone is sleek and attractive, but the ordeal of getting it to work made me feel like a complete idiot. The User Guide for the LG CF360 is four inches by four and three-quarter inches and it is half an inch thick. This makes some sense - a user is probably going to need a compact book out in the world - but as a guide for starting out at home I could have done with something bigger and more instructive. The page of screens icons displayed them as so small a user would need a magnifying glass to identify them. And the instructions were frustratingly basic; in my humbled view, they seemed to assume that the user might know what he is doing. Forget that one.
For example, the instructions talked about a SIM card that had to be inserted in the back of the phone. It didn't really explain what this was (it acts as the brains of the operation, I was later told). It didn't explain the meaning of the acronym, which maddened me. My brain needs to know something like that in order to get the concept.
To be fair, I do not learn well from instructions of any sort. They always raise questions that they do not answer for me. I have the same experience with government forms. The questions assume a way of thinking that is not mine.
Through trial and error, I did manage to send and receive calls. But when I went to put numbers in my contact book, that process became hopelessly screwed up. Every time a new number was put in, it came out as the same number of the phone - which made no sense at all.
Today, feeling defeated, I trudged up in the cold to the AT&T store on Grant Street. The staff there were helpful and it turns out I wasn't a complete idiot - an idiot perhaps but not complete. Something had gone wrong. Even the guy who looked at the phone was baffled at first and he twice had to purge all the numbers and reboot before it worked. He suggested that maybe I went wrong by following the Guide Book and becoming confused. Anyone adult would, Your Honor.
So now I am back in business, sort of. I still have a lot to figure out.
Which leaves me with a familiar lament about the modern world. How come you have to be 17 to figure this stuff out? I have the same thought about cable TV. It used to be that you just turned on the TV and changed the channel but today it can get complicated fast - and for no discernible reason.
In the meantime, Mrs. H is having no trouble with her i-Phone, which she loves. She is a five years younger than I am and maybe that explains the difference.