Readers of this blog, if any, may have noticed it has changed its appearance several times lately. First, thanks to tech support, it looked pretty good on desktops and laptops, but not so good on tablets and phones.
Foolishly, without consulting tech support (Brian – a guy under 40 my daughter knows), I pushed a button that said it would make it look good on mobile devices. Bang, zoom – instead it made it look bad on everything. And in order to fix it tech support felt it was necessary to start entirely from scratch. Something arcane about code being overwritten.
This is as if I slipped and spilled gray paint on a white wall. Instead of cursing loudly and then repainting, in the tech world it appears I would have to burn down my house and start sawing lumber.
I admit I know nothing about the innards of tech but don’t think I should have to in order to use a computer, phone or cable box. If people had to understand how refrigerators and cars worked to use them we’d still be riding the horse down to the ice house to bring back a block for the icebox.
It ought to be enough that Gates and Zuckerberg and their ilk are billionaires. That’s part of the contract. They get the money and we get the gadgets. But the money works without a user’s manual. So should the gear. And it ought to work without invading our privacy, stealing our data or identity, subjecting us to malware, viruses, bugs, glitches, crashes or buffering. If they invent a new world, it ought to come equipped with screens in summer, windows in winter, bug spray, fire and burglar alarms and permit the average doofus to navigate it without consulting the druids down at tech support.
Of course, this analogy doesn’t quite cover the present case of an idiot making a mess of his own domicile. But since I now live “a stranger and afraid in a world I never made,” the technology that the new world requires me to use ought to be user friendly, if not entirely idiot proof. It should not require an advanced degree from Stanford to change the color of my blog from red to gold.
Alas, this is the cry of the dinosaur. Tiny children, barely begun to walk, are operating ipads and probably writing code. The critic and poet Randall Jarrell, witty as always, addressed this dilemma. He was asked by an older gent of a Longfellow-loving generation what he had to do to get in tune with these new guys like Eliot, Frost and Stevens. Jarrell was too polite to tell him the truth, but an answer immediately sprang to mind. “You must be born again.”