Warning! This tale may make you feel old. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon for more mature folks to get frustrated while trying to make sense of some of the new fangled high tech gear. Even I, uber-techno geek get frustrated at some of the unbelievably idiot user-interface decisions that are made by some equipment designers. However, this particularly phenomenon of feeling like a stranger in time is not restricted to those of us with more experience in navigating through the world.
The young can become equally befuddled by pieces of equipment with which they have not previously become acquainted. Recently, my son Max had the opportunity to become extremely frustrated by just such a device. Those who are of my age or above, having manage to muddle their way through at least four decades of life may remember an odd little electro-mechanical gadget commonly referred to by historians as the rotary dial phone. At one time the phone company (of which there was only one in those dark days) would lease customers a phone (much as cable companies lease you a cable modem today) and it was hard wired to a wall (this being before the days of a phone jack on every wall in your home). You couldn’t stick these things in your pocket, or even wander around the house with one. If you were lucky you might get one with an extra long cord allowing you to reach across the room while talking to someone.
Our two kids have each had a cell phone since they were about nine years old, allowing them to contact us when needed. When I was that age, we had one phone in the house, I can even remember when the phone company technician came to add jacks to our house, allowing us to get an extension! and we could even move it from room to room! what a concept. At any reate on a recent Saturday afternoon, Max was at the sportsman’s club where he goes to do archery and air rifle shooting. He had left his mobile at home and had finished early while I had left to go run an errand.
When I returned a half hour later he was extremely aggravated and upset at me and I couldn’t figure out why until later. As it happens the only phone in the club house area where he was, was rotary dial phone. Max had previously seen one in a museum, but had never had occasion to actually use one. As a result, he had absolutely no clue about how to operate this seemingly straightforward device. He knew my cell phone number, but was completely unable to determine how to input it into this antique machine. It seems so odd, that something that was so ubiquitous in the earlier part of my relatively brief to date lifetime could seem so utterly foreign to a child who grew up with a computer mouse in his hand.Â If something so seemingly innocuous can cause so much frustration for one child, imagine the effects of a one culture invading a completely different one, or the mental anguish that could result if time travel actually were possible.