Sunday, January 06, 2008

Keeping Up with the Techno-Joneses

A goal I set for myself back when I was in my 20s was that I would be resolved not to stagnate in the present as technology moved quickly into the future. I saw around me a world where those over 50 were confused by such new-fangled devices as the video tape recorder or the handheld calculator.

The VCR, in particular, became part of a running joke. It was the device that baby boomers and senior citizens either didn’t own, or if they did, the clock on the front would perpetually blink 12:00.

I not only mastered the operation of my VCR I was among the first to adopt the new digital watch with the LED display. If Kojak was wearing one, it was good enough for me. It only bothered me a little that it took two hands to check the time and I could forget about knowing the time of day in the bright sunlight.

As I enter the middle of my sixth decade of life, I still try to keep up with the times and not become an old fogy. But I’ve noticed it’s getting harder to do. As technology advances faster than my ability, or inclination, to read about it, I find myself being bombarded with terminology I’m not familiar with.

It’s true I haven’t sent a check to pay a bill since 1988. Why write paper checks when it’s faster, cheaper, and easier to send money electronically? And my entire music collection is on my computer. I don’t buy CDs anymore; I download.

But still, some of the terms I read about are foreign to my ears. I find myself having to research these new additions to the technology lexicon almost on a daily basis.

One area of technology that I haven’t kept up with, though, is gaming. I tried. Believe me; I tried really hard back in the 1980s to stay up to date by becoming a gamer. I owned the first Pong game console. It was actually fun, for awhile. I played Space Invaders and Asteroids on my Atari. But I quickly tired of those games.

As games became more complex and I found myself having to use more and more of the little buttons and sticks on the remote control to clear a level of play, I decided it just wasn’t worth the time or effort. When my son was seven, he could beat my butt playing Super Mario Brothers. So I retired from gaming permanently, or so I thought.

My daughter, who is a senior in college, came home a couple of weeks ago saying that she really wanted us to get a Nintendo Wii. I told her I wasn’t into gaming and would not be playing any with her. So if she got one, she would play it solo.

But when I went down to a family gathering for New Years, my nephew had brought one to the party. I played bowling and golf. I have to admit, it was fun and much more intuitive than the games I remember trying to learn a couple of decades ago.

There was no complicated game controller with a zillion buttons to learn. It was like a TV remote and had only a few buttons. The game is played by moving the remote control around. When you roll a bowling ball, you go through the same motion with your hand as you would if you were actually holding a bowling ball in it. The same is true for golf, baseball, or any of the other games.

There were no levels to clear and nobody to shoot. Of course those types of games are available for the Wii, but I won’t be buying any. And, yes, I did purchase the game console for my daughter and me.

It’s a nice diversion from television, even if my television is a flat-panel HDTV home theater system with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, complete with an up-converting DVD player and recorder. And nothing on my system flashes 12:00.

It might be getting harder to keep up, but I’m still hanging in there.

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