Opinion: What the tech is going on?


Many technological advances in the world have stumped me the past couple of decades. In each of the next few weeks, I will revisit some of the columns I wrote where I shared how my techy skills have improved … or not.

In 2009, I went to Staples to buy a telephone. This perplexed the young clerk. “Let me understand this, sir. You don’t want a phone for your pocket or car. You want a phone that just sits on a, on a…?”

“A desk. Yes, a desk.”

“And you want it to have a…?”

“A cord. Yup, I want a cord.”

“If we have one, it will be back in the far corner next to the carbon paper and floppy disks.”

The manager directed me to the office phones. I took home a pricey new model and eagerly opened the box. Out fell the directions. Sixty pages. Hello! I just want to make simple calls.

I refused to be intimidated. If I could set up a computer (which I couldn’t), I could certainly plug in a phone. So, I did, and I got a dial tone. Maybe I could throw the other 59 pages away. Then, my cellphone rang.

“Dick, it’s Bob. I’ve been calling your new home number, but you don’t pick up. Are you avoiding me?”

“Of course not! Maybe the new phone doesn’t ring.”

“Hmmm, that’s usually a pretty standard feature.”

I called AT&T from my cellphone. “Hello? I hope you can help me. My new landline phone doesn’t ring.”

“When doesn’t it ring, sir?”

“Huh? It doesn’t ring when someone is trying to call me.”

“How do you know that, sir? Maybe no one is calling. Did you plug in the power booster?”

“Why do I need a power booster? It’s a phone, not a weed whacker.”

“Sir, phones today require additional oomph because of all the features. That explanation is on Page 34, just below how to interface your iPhone with the on-screen directory and the switchable data port.”

He droned on and on about the phone features for 20 minutes. Why isn’t there a reverse mute button?

Update: I had a landline installed in our new home. I gave the new number to only Bob and my editor, Heidi (and apparently everyone in the world who calls to offer me a better mortgage rate or sell me gold). Last night, Bob called me on the landline while I was talking to Heidi. I pressed several buttons, trying to put one of them on hold, but I had no clue what I was doing. I was disconnected from both calls. But here’s the good news: Today, I found out that Bob and Heidi had a lovely conversation.