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Technology: Love It and Hate It

Technology makes life simpler by one definition:  methods, systems, and devices which are the result of scientific knowledge being used for practical purposes in industry and our everyday day lives.  Technology certainly proved practical when Husband, our 15-year-old Grand, Elsie, and I set off on a five-day trip. 

Holding my iPhone in hand, I said, “Hey, Siri. Get directions to Sandusky, Ohio.”  Seconds later, Google Maps showed three possible routes on my phone screen. We chose one showing 486 miles and 7 hours 35 minutes.  Because I wanted to follow our route on paper and I like to know the names of towns we travel through, I kept my Rand-McNally atlas close by as we followed a blue line and spoken directions from my phone.   

I appreciated detailed directions. “In ¼ mile, use the right two lanes. Turn left onto Interstate Highway 77.” As Google Map’s back-up navigator for Husband while he drove, I sometimes repeated directions, watched for highway and street signs, and looked up the name of the next town.

When we arrived at our destination, I praised technology.  We didn’t make a single wrong turn, although driving time was extended an hour due to road construction, and along the way Google Map had located and directed us to the nearest Chick-Fil-A.

As we travelled, we used technology in other ways.  Texts, emails and phone calls kept us connected with friends and family.  I played word games, and our Grand listened to audio books.

            The next day I encountered my bane of technology.  At a Cedar Point Amusement Park information booth, I asked for a park map.  “You can scan one,” said the park employee.  She pointed to a QR code, a black and white square, and immediately looked towards another park visitor.

Quick Response codes have been described as barcodes on steroids; they hold information horizontally and vertically.  Was I expected to see everything at Cedar Point, a 364-acre park, on my 3” x 6” phone screen?  Never understanding the park’s layout, I floundered for the next few hours and followed Elsie from ride to ride.

Finally, we saw the main information center so I again asked for a paper map.  The employee said, “You can scan one,” and pointed to a QR code. I gave her my best grandmother smile and said, “I’ve been frustrated all morning.”

She nodded and ducked below the counter.  “Here you go. This should help.”  I triumphantly waved my paper map toward Husband and Elsie.

At suppertime, a hostess guided us to a restaurant booth and pointed to the tabletop.  “Your waiter will be right with you. You can scan our menu here,” she said. Another QR code.

As we looked at phone screens, the waiter must have sensed my frustration because she asked, “Would you like paper menus?”  Most times I think I’m moving along well (for my age, some would say) in this technology world, but I hope all the world’s information doesn’t get packed into black and white squares.


Connecting with Family and Friends

I’ve never been so thankful for technology.  Since Tuesday, March 3, it’s been a lifeline.  I was sound asleep at 6:00 a.m. that Tuesday morning at Son’s home, when two phones rang.  My first thought wasn’t kind.  Who would call or text so early? 

            I hear Husband say, “Yes, we’re fine,” as I read a text from my Kentucky cousin. “Are you all okay?” he wrote.  I immediately responded, “Why wouldn’t we be?  We’re in Colorado.”  My cousin knew my response meant we were visiting Son’s family, and he simply wrote, “Bad tornado in Putnam County.”  While Husband finished his phone call with a Nashville friend, I scanned Facebook posts and learned about damages west of Cookeville, but none reported near our or Daughter’s homes. 

            As I pulled on my clothes I thought of April, 1974, when a tornado hit Tennessee.  Husband and I lived in Davidson County, and my parents lived in Pickett County. I don’t remember exact details, but I know I called Mom and Dad’s house from the one phone at Old Center Elementary School where I taught and they didn’t answer their phone. Hours later, my principal, Mrs. Granstaff, told me Husband had called the school office, and he’d talked to my parents; they and my grandparents were okay.  With great relief, I cried. 

            How differently we communicate now as compared to 1974.  Husband and I immediately called or texted family and friends in Cookeville, and then out-of-town family and friends, to let them know we were okay, but many people weren’t.  We flew home that day, as planned.

            Then the COVID19 virus pandemic hit and face-to-face meetings discouraged.  Grandparents aren’t hugging grandchildren, some not even visiting them, but we can see them onscreen. Husband and I have Facetimed with our Colorado Grands for years.  We’ve watched them turn somersaults, seen the big gaps in their mouths left from just-pulled teeth, and drunk tea at their pretend tea parties.  We still do that, but now Facetime means even more.

            Last week, we sang “Happy Birthday” to a Grand while other family members watched her blow out 11 candles.  They watched her excitement when she opened gifts they’d wrapped for her.  It wasn’t the same as being together, but it was a birthday celebration that will always be remembered.  Husband and I Facetimed with friends who live a few miles away. We visited from our front porch to their kitchen table.  We compared shopping adventures, projects completed, TV programs watched, toasted technology and friendship, and made plans to “see” each other next week.

            For three Sundays, I’ve “attended” church while sitting at home because First United Methodist, like many churches, has broadcast the morning service electronically.  

            Have you used Zoom, the video conferencing app?  I’d never hear of it until last week.  On Sunday, about thirty Sunday School class members came together for a discussion.  It felt good to see and hear friends and pray together.             I appreciate it all: phone calls, texts, Facebook, Instagram, Facetime, Zoom.   My ways to connect right now.  Thank goodness.

Life in 2017

Husband needed the schedule, I thought. I hit the word FORWARD at the top of an email, entered Husband’s email address, and clicked SEND. Then I walked downstairs from an upstairs room in our house where I work on my computer to where Husband sat in front of his laptop. “I forwarded an email to you,” I said.

“What’s it about?” Husband asked.

“Where and when talks will be given at the Chattanooga aquarium when we go this week. I made notes to take with us.” Holding a post-it-note in my hand, I laughed at myself. How silly to forward an email when Husband was only thirty steps away and I could have told him the information I wanted to share or just shown him the note I held.

Sending this email reminded me of a list I read that began with these words: you know you are living in 2017 when. It included you send an e-mail to the person whose desk is right next to you. I read that, shook my head, and thought surely not. But surely, I did the same.

As I reread the list recently, I wondered if someone had been watching me.

You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach a family of three. I have at least two phone numbers, home and mobile, for everyone and work numbers for some. Remember when the only number was a home phone?

You drive into your driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home to help carry in the groceries. Even worse, I called as I left the grocery store in hopes that Husband would be standing on the front steps waiting for me.

Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn’t even own for the first 20 or 30 years of your life, is cause for panic and you go home to get it. Guilty. I drove a mile away from home, thought of something I meant to tell Husband, reached in my purse to send a text, and when my cell phone wasn’t there, I drove home. I got my phone, forget to tell Husband whatever was important, and drove back across town.

You enter your checking account PIN number on the microwave. That Personal Identification Number that I worked hard to memorize. I didn’t enter it on the microwave, but I did once use it as the last four digits of my Social Security number.

I could add a few things to the list.

You hit fast-forward on the television remote control to avoid watching commercials while watching a live program.

You push OPEN on your car fob to unlock the door at your house.

You hand a credit card to the librarian to check out a book at the public library, and your library card is not even the same color as your credit card.

Living in 2017. Technology. Emails. Cell phones. Remote controls. Credit cards. PIN.

Makes me wonder what life twenty years later will be like.



Smiley Faces and Emojis

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 5.06.15 PM           A smiling face is happy. A frown is sad. Well, not always. In the world of emojis, there are dozens of faces and depending on the eyes, a water droplet, or a tongue, a smile can take on different meanings.

What’s an emoji? (ēˈmōjē)   If you’re asking, you probably don’t use a smart phone or online conversation. Or maybe you hate and ignore those little pictures people use in text messages. Or you’ve seen those little pictures and didn’t know they had a name. An emoji is simply a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in an electronic communication. Certainly not everyone who communicates by email and texting and social networking uses such icons.

Is the idea for emojis really new? A yellow circle face is one of the most poplar emojis and a double first cousin to a smiley face. And haven’t smiley faces been around forever? As a teacher, I drew a circle with a big curved smile and two dots for eyes beside A and B grades on many students’ papers. Sometimes, I’d circle the dotted eyes to draw glasses and add wisps of hair. And if I wished the grade had been higher, I drew a straight-line, curved down mouth for sadness.

According to Smithsonian.com, in 1963 Harvey Ball, an American graphic artist and ad man, was commissioned to create a graphic to raise morale among the employees of an insurance company. Ball was paid $45 for his work that took less than 10 minutes. The State Mutual Life Assurance Company made posters, buttons, and signs to encourage their employees to smile more. There’s no record if that worked, but the company recognized that the logo was a hit and produced millions of buttons. Neither Ball nor the insurance company attempted to copyright the design.

In the early 1970s in Philadelphia, two brothers who owned Hallmark card shops added the slogan “Have a Happy Day” to a smiley face and produced copyrighted novelty items. Within one year, over 50 million happy day smiley face buttons and other products had been sold.

Worldwide, smiling faces have been used by many businesses, even a French newspaper to highlight positive news. And thru the years, there have been trademark and copyright disagreements, ending in lawsuits and multi-million dollar settlements. One argument is that a circle with a simple curved one-line mouth is so basic that it can’t be credited to anyone. And it’s been claimed that the world’s first smiley face dates back to 2500 BC on a stone carving found in a French cave.

Many of us can probably find a smiley face button stuck in the back of a kitchen drawer or at the bottom of a sock drawer. Those bright yellow metal buttons that have one long stickpin to wear on lapels. Those buttons that we gave to each other to say ‘Have a good day!’ Buttons we wore to let the world know we were happy.

That simple face with a curved line smile and two dots for eyes was transformed into many variations and has appeared on posters and pillows and art. And when emojis came along, smiley faces learned to scream and whisper and cry and vent and wink and love and kiss and laugh.  And along side those round faces are thousands of other emojis.

So who created emojis? Why? I intend to research just a bit and I’ll let you know.

Technology Smart Kids

      images      “Good Morning!” I said to my youngest Grand.  His mother passed her sleepy 20-month-old son from her arms to mine.

“Ish!  Ish!”  he said to me.

“Fish?”  I asked.  He nodded his head and looked around the room.  When he spotted my iPad, he repeated, “Ish!  Ish!”

While riding in the backseat of a car with my Grand for over an hour the previous day, I had opened my iPad to entertain him.  He quickly learned to place his finger on a floating circle on the iPad tablet screen and drag it to the fish’s mouth.  He laughed when the fish’s mouth opened wide to swallow the circle.  And that night, I showed him a concentration game, thinking he’d like the way the blank tiles flipped to show pairs of birds and toys and zoo animals that I’d match and then the tiles would disappear.  When only a few blank tiles remained, he pointed to the two that matched.  At first I thought it was by chance, but it wasn’t.  He purposely chose matching pictures several times, but his favorite iPad game was “ish.”

Every time my older Grands come to my house, they ask, “May I play your iPad?”  I set a timer for them to each have a 15-minute turn.  My book-loving Grand always chooses to ‘watch’ a read-aloud book.  The Photo Booth app gives my creative Grand a way produce swirl and mirror and kaleidoscope pictures.  My oldest Grand chooses video-type games.  After they play their just-for-fun games, I encourage them to play learning games.  Now, I know everybody’s child is an advanced technology student.  And that’s what intrigues me.  Youngsters know how to play games on tablets and computers like I knew how to stack blocks.

And today’s kids never tire of their games like my children never tired of PacMan, that yellow, circular, open-mouth character, but the PacMan jingle drove me crazy in the 1980’s.  That’s when my dad told me, “Now, Susan, when I was a kid, I was told to get my head out of a book.  And I told you not to listen to the radio and watch TV so much.  Now you think your kids are playing those video games too much.  Next generation, it’ll be something else.”

One little tyke learned to spell his last name because he wanted to use the new family tablet.  He repeatedly asked his mother the password for the iPad.  Finally, she said, “If you want to use it, you have to learn to spell the password.  It’s our last name, Resudek.”  The next day he announced to his preschool teacher that he’d learned to spell his last name.  His teacher listened as the proud little boy stood straight and tall and recited, “R E S U D E K -Enter!”

Enter…that’s what all our young ones are doing.  Entering life with passwords, computers, tablets, readers, smart phones, MP3 players – all sorts of technology.  That’s where we are.