My two sons-in-law have what I call their “magic machines.” Actually, they are just iPhones or the latest incarnation thereof. But when they look up the nearest Starbucks, take fabulous pictures or talk about their newest apps, I am awed. As for me, I have a flip phone. Remember those? Only a few years ago, flip phones were cool, new, the thing to have. Now, my children laugh at me. But wait, it’s a new flip, and I now have unlimited texting (the old way), a few picture taking capabilities, and…..well, not much more. But I only pay $32 a month, and now I can reach my daughters, who only respond to text messages. When they’re in the mood. (But that’s another story.) I also have an old wall phone at home, the kind with the squiggly cord. I hear better on it. What can I tell you? Anyway, technology is moving so fast, who can keep up with it?
When I was nine years old, I wanted to write stories. My mother bought me an instructional booklet, and sat me down at the Underwood typewriter in the den. I typed on that big old thing with its manual return carriage for years. In high school, I took typing because I was already good at it. In the middle of the year, the class got one electric typewriter, kept in the back of the room. We all took turns getting used to it. During my work years, I used carbon paper and Wite-Out. It was really exciting when my office got the new typewriter with Correcto tape. Then came the mainframe computer, and the instruction booklet as big as a set of World Book Encyclopedias. I remember crying. Although I progressed through the years through Ms-Dos to Word Perfect to Microsoft Word, I am most definitely not a techie and none of this came easy.
I polled my friends at the JCC on 76th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. Most of them have flip phones. A few have no phone, and a very few have smart phones. My friend Ann’s son gave her a smart phone. In fact, he insisted on it, saying she definitely needed one. It lies unused in her drawer, while her flip travels with her. My friend Edna says she has a smart phone, but she’s a dumb user. Most of us agree that all we need is to be able to call and be called. The rest is for the young folks. Most of my friends also have computers, but a few don’t. One tried a tablet and went to the Apple Store on West 67th Street. The noise and crowds chased her out, and she soon returned the tablet.
Not having any kind of computer shocks even me. I have my six-year-old desktop, and I’m hoping it lives as long as I do. I can’t use a laptop; it feels like reaching over a barrier to type, and I certainly don’t want to take it to bed and watch movies. I take books to bed; real books, not a Kindle. Real books have spines and paper and you can’t make the letters larger or smaller. Personally, I don’t know many people with Kindles or Nooks. The people I know still like books; just the feel of them. The sense of picking up something real and settling down to turn the pages and not scroll them. And you can take them into the bathtub.
I’m sure there are plenty of seniors tuned in to the modern technological age; my friends and I just aren’t among them. I was once told by someone that I “absolutely needed” to have a smart phone. I told him that no, I didn’t. What most of us want is to check our email, look up illnesses on Google, order from Amazon, and maybe see what’s in the news. I myself like Facebook, though I don’t know its ins and outs. I just like to spy on old friends and look up high school buddies.
Technological advances are are not going to stop, and some seniors are going to want all the new gadgets. The people I know pretty much just want to call and say “meet me at the diner at 1,” or “how’s your gall bladder today?” Maybe we want to order a book from Amazon.
Go on, young people, swipe away. “Swipe.” Didn’t that used to mean “steal?” Ah, the good old days.