Conquering the fear of technology

Friday, April 15, 2005

Every week I scribble notes for this column down on a scrap of paper. As the week progresses, more information is added. Soon, most of the column is done, yet one task remains. I still have to type it into the computer.

Not once have I written an entire column while sitting in front of the computer. Call me Old School, but no one will ever take my pen and paper away.

I have a fear of technology and I'm not afraid to admit it, but it's invading every aspect of our lives from our bedrooms to our bathrooms to our schools.

My alarm clock has three little buttons to set the time and the alarm as well as a big snooze button. The simple but functional clock served me just fine -- until recently.

I'm one of those people who purposely set my alarm to go off early, so I can hit the snooze button at least three times. But I picked up the clock the other day and small pieces fell off in every direction including the snooze button. While the clock still told the time and the alarm would go off at the appropriate time, the snooze button would no longer function.

I'm down to two difficult choices: Splurging on a new alarm clock with a working snooze button or, and this is more drastic, get up the first and only time the alarm goes off. For the time being, I'm going with the latter decision but I'm not happy about it.

There is an alternative out there for myself and others who are dependent on the snooze button.

Scientists at MIT have invented a special alarm clock which forces you to get up in the morning. No, it does not signal your mom to come to your room with an ice-cold pitcher of water. According to an article in "New Scientist," the alarm clocks goes off like normal -- the first time.

After you hit snooze, the clock jumps off the table and rolls away on little wheels. Nine minutes later when the alarm goes off again, you spend so much time and energy looking for the clock and trying to stop the blaring alarm that you're awake. No more need for the snooze button.

Or I could invent my own roaming clock by duct taping my snooze-button-less clock to my son's remote control car, attach the remote to the cat who will scatter out of the bedroom when the alarm goes off. By the time I found the clock, the car and the cat, I should be awake.

Technology has even moved into the bathroom. There was nothing wrong with my household's previous scale, it just didn't offer all the features my husband wanted. So a new digital scale has moved in, as well as the depression. After telling the scale more than I usually tell my children, the scale will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about yourself including your fat content. I'll be putting out my own nutrition label soon.

I'm still not sold on this new digital scale, primarily because there are so many benefits to the old, manual scale.

Turn the little knob at the bottom of the manual scale and suddenly you've lost three pounds. A digital scale isn't going to let you lose weight that easily. It's going to require drastic measures such as exercising and eating right.

Lean a little to the left on a manual scale and the shadow of the needle says those three pounds are gone again. Lean a little to the right and you've got new motivation to lose weight as an extra three pounds have been added. There's no leaning back and forth trying to get a new number on a digital scale. The cold, hard, unchanging numbers are staring right back at you.

I have found one way to make my numbers look good. I just tell the scale I'm a 6-4, 63 year-old sedate male. Suddenly, I'm malnourished and underweight.

It's not just at home that technology is taking over.

Schools are not immune. Computer labs are now common in nearly every school, requiring students to either use computers at home or in specific rooms.

Not at Westside High School in Omaha. Last fall, each of the 1,000-plus students was issued an individual iBooks (Mac laptops for the uninitiated).

While it's hard to even fathom each student having their own, brand new computers given to them free by the school, there's an even more bewildering thought. The administration installed the basic software needed to navigate the school's homework and announcement pages. Everything else was "locked out."

I don't know if the school staff forgot that these kids knew how to click a mouse before they could ride on training wheels, but the iBooks were customized and hacked into soon after. The school staff is watching for illegal use of the laptops, which were supposed to be for school use only, and reformatting those computers confiscated. Those should comply with regulations -- for a day or two.

-- Ronda Graff is waiting for the day her kids reprogram her computer. They don't need to insert the DVD into the player anymore so she knows the time is near.

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