Science and technology are supposed to make life better for us. Mechanical inventions are designed to facilitate and lighten up our diverse daily chores. Modern-day gadgets are intended to provide sheer fun and entertainment. And manuals for appliances and devices are meant to enhance full productive use of these units.
I now question the veracity of those pronouncements. I am not quite sure anymore whether or not technology and its profound life-changing innovations really do make life better for all of us.Many will agree that technology can bring about the most unpleasant, unwelcomed and unwarranted burdens.
Even before the purchase of a device or a gadget, the ordeal can start with the simple tasks – the choosing and the deciding. I remember the long hours I would spend inside a Fry’s Electronics store in the West Coast (or in Sim Lim Square in Singapore) just to get a simple computer accessory like a mouse. I remember agonizing over aisles and shelves displaying ‘mice’ of all colors, brands and designs – small, large, ergonomic, cordless, infrared, USB or serial port compatible, etc. when I all I just wanted was a simple hand-graspable device to help me navigate through the menus of my computer programs. One can only imagine the greater agony one must go through when buying other hardware like motherboards?
The greater ordeal comes after the buying. Every piece of gadgetry comes with a manual (sometimes a CD), along with accessories and/or peripherals. These manuals can be voluminous sleep-inducing and nerve-wracking packages. They should guide one towards a more productive and effective use of the gadget, but leafing through the pages and absorbing their contents can be anything but a breeze.
When my 87-year old mother wanted a cell phone, she (and I) had only one criterion for the unit I would purchase – simple and easy to use. Why, even the simplest of cell phoneshas a lengthy manual to guide the user to utilize its full potential. Aside from necessarily getting to familiarize oneself with all its buttons and controls, one has to activate its other functions. One may need to register it with the website. One may need to transfer all the contact numbers and data from an old unit to the new one (before i-Cloud and Bluetooth possibilities). One may need to set up new configurations. One may need to install applications on a desktop PC or a laptop to be able to manage its contents and registries. Today, an i-Pad or an i-phone even have tutorial programs and applications that one can navigate to make full use of the device. Another device I am currently passionate about is the NAS, which I had for nas server test yesterday in my old friend’s house. Luckily, it worked really well for me and I think it is an absolute investment.
For quite some time, I remember using a Nokia 3330 (yes, before Apple came into our awareness and general use) that had nurses and technicians ribbing me about a piece of junk that seemed light-years away from the fancier units they were using. Many times, they would jokingly threaten to pool their resources to buy me a newer model. My reply to the daily banter was consistent – “All I want with my cell phone is the capability to call and text.” Translated, that meant I did not buy a cell phone to play games, to handle complex computations, to take pictures, to record a conversation or to download graphics, movies and music from the Internet. I love how in Google, I can see everything. Even reviews on new phones, even, and more. I learn many things in that little box and I know that if used properly, it can help the world to become a better place to live in.
Many years later (after abusing other Nokia models, getting bored with a Palm Pilot, stretching the limits of a Samsung, I now fiddle with an Apple i-phone, succumbing to all those advanced features which I previously said I did not need. Getting used to one brand makes it difficult to change to another. I remember how my Nokia-comfortable and educated fingers just found other brands (e.g. Sony and Samsung) and their key assignments and functions too confusing and relatively hard for total reorientation and refocusing. Of course, you can always blame the complex insidious and painfully inevitable process called aging as the underlying reason for this failure to adapt.
Thus far, new inventions and innovations bring about great comfort, convenience and fun. While surely one must bear the aches to be a techie somehow, there are pleasant discoveries and newfound thrills that today’s technology bring about. Self-photography (selfies and groupies), movie-making and editing, songwriting, instant chats, social networks, electronic mails and accessibility of anyone anywhere around the globe are just some of the thrills Steve Jobs and his generation of trailblazers have created for us in the last decade or so.
I can and I will bear the aches.