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Warmer: What are your thoughts on technology moving so fast? Are you keeping up? And if so, how much time do you spend on technology in general?

Now read the text below, and then answer the questions that follow.

I’m slowly becoming a technophobe, and it’s all Donkey Kong’s fault

An original article by Roger Hartopp, 31 January 2018

Now I’m not the kind of person who likes to show my age, but this article will probably give you a big clue as to what it is.

When I was much younger – and probably just like all the other kids of my age – I loved the idea of new technology. Gosh, I remember the excitement when we were going to have our very first colour TV! That was just brilliant – black and white out of the window, and lovely colour from a 26-inch (yes, 26 inches was BIG in those days!) large and rather heavy glass, plastic and metal box that was stored inside a wooden cabinet. With doors!

But I also remember the time – oh my goodness, please, am I really that old? – when Dad changed from an old mono gramophone player (look it up) to a large stereo player complete with built-in speakers. From there, I became aware of all the technological changes being made at home, starting with that old rotary desk phone (with the dial on top – yes, that’s where the verb to dial [a number] comes from, and is still used today) to one of those push-button jobs that were mounted on the wall, and then just a few years later, the cordless variety. Mobile phones were still the territory of Star Trek, but the communicators in that TV show directly influenced those young minds watching it back in the sixties and seventies who went on to develop those flatscreen mobile and smartphones we have today. And the Video Cassette Recorder! Boy, I could now record TV programmes on tape – contained in large black plastic rectangular cases – that were on the same time as others! No more arguments on who wanted to watch what! And no more situations where, if you missed the show, that was it. The programme was gone for ever.

The seventies, eighties and early nineties were an exciting time and I lapped them up. I would read the instruction manuals back to back. I’d spend time looking, studying and examining as many of the new electronic devices that would be introduced to the household. I’d even switched from gramophone records to compact discs and, later, a gradual move from VHS to DVD, although I’d only buy new movies and shows and not replacing my existing tapes. I got myself a video camera (analogue only) and even set up my own mini studio making my own little travelogues, eventually getting three series shown on my local Cable TV station and each mastered onto Super VHS tape. We soon got satellite TV (analogue!) and I even became expert in setting those up with a television set.

But then something changed. I moved to Poland, got married and had a family and had to dedicate more time for that. However, the runaway train that was technology was just that, refusing to wait at my station to let me get back on board while I was visiting the cafeteria. It was now leaving my platform and advancing forward rapidly and I missed it. I now found I could no longer keep up.

So should I blame my moving to Poland, marriage, and having a family? It perhaps played its part in an indirect way, but other families and relationships still seemed to be able to keep pace. But the change did coincide with the sudden explosion of the digital era, particularly with computing.

So maybe Moore’s Law is the source of all my increasing ignorance? For those who don’t know what Moore’s Law is, back in the sixties a young research engineer called Gordon Moore observed that the amount of memory available on a chip virtually doubled every year. Remarkably, this unofficial rule has continued ever since, although there are signs that other areas of microchip technology have almost gone as far as is possible – basically, they can’t get them any smaller. But the results are incredible: everything electronic is, these days, controlled by microchips and so are all effectively computers, including the toaster. You can even send text messages to your oven. And maybe your toaster too, for all I know. It probably even responds. With emojis, probably.

I’m not a computer expert. Okay, I’m writing this on a keyboard and I’m going to need a new laptop soon, probably with hi-definition graphics and camera as I may well be branching out in the near future onto YouTube, but to blame Moore is perhaps taking it a little too far. Even so, my eldest son, who wants to advise me on what’s best for my new computer, is telling me about goodness-knows-what with a goodness-knows-which with so many thingies and it’s a graphics card not hi-definition graphics… oh god, I just want to say, ‘yeah, whatever’. Like a typical teen.

You know, when I think back to my youth, for me part of the excitement of life included the anticipation. It was all part of the experience of getting say, for example, the new Pink Floyd album. I’d be excited all week at school, then on Saturday morning going into town by bus and taking my hard-saved pocket money, going into the record shop, buying the disc in its 12-inch gatefold sleeve, coming home, taking it out the bag, admiring the artwork, removing the large black flat vinyl disc from its inner sleeve and putting it on the turntable, and then sitting down to absorb what I’ve spent a lot of time getting excited about. Now it’s … New album? Open Spotify, type it in, and there it is and you hear it. No sense of anticipation. It’s just there. Instantly. Any time. And for free if you don’t mind the ads.

I think the sad truth is that I’m starting to get old. And I blame Donkey Kong Country for finally telling me so.

I’m now, it’s fair to say, past the half-way point in my life. This hit me when, over a year ago, I got out the old version of Donkey Kong Country that was produced for the old Nintendo gaming console and started playing it on my laptop, and enjoying it; I was going back in time to an era where games were simpler, although the graphics were rather blocky; they were, of course, intended for the normal TV of the time, a now primitive 625 lines. But then my youngest son found someone had uploaded the game onto YouTube, had played the whole thing through from start to finish, with no errors, finding all the shortcuts, bonuses and hidey holes to find all those extra bananas. The length of the video: two and a half hours!

Two and a half hours? Did I really waste so much of my life playing that? My god, I thought, there were so many more important things I could have done in my time then, and today there are so many teens who are doing the same thing with Battlefield 1 or Grand Theft Auto or the current online craze, Fortnite. And since then I have refused to play Donkey Kong. I now don’t want to have anything to do with games that involve quests and missions which, if solved correctly, could send you round a virtual world in which you could spend absolutely hours. Or days. People have even died forgetting that in the real world they are supposed to eat, drink and sleep.

And I don’t have that much life left! So that’s when it hit me.

Today anything that involves a long period of instruction or study is something I feel I can no longer afford. At my age time just seems to whoosh by so quickly it now makes an increasingly louder noise (Whoooosssshhh!!!). It’s all just going too fast for me these days.

So while I wouldn’t say I’m a technophobe – I use and love technology, and I can’t work without the laptop or the smartphone – but I can’t say I’m a technophile either, because at my age, I feel that I just don’t have enough time to get immersed into quad-core processors, acceleration servers, content management systems, dial-peer hunting and VolP trunk gateways. No, I haven’t got a clue what they are either, but I’m told they exist. Or existed, I don’t know!

Today I struggle enough with the 300-page manual that’s been submitted with the new digitally-controlled washing machine recently installed in my bathroom. And that’s just looking for the English section.

1.    What are the writer’s earliest memories of technological changes at his home?
2.    Which television show supposedly inspired the modern mobile phone/smartphone?
3.    What was VHS and what eventually replaced it?
4.    When was the point where the writer states that he could no longer keep up?
5.    What is Moore’s law? Why is it significant in computing?
6.    For the writer, what was also important in life that he feels is no longer appreciated today?
7.    What was the incident that led the writer to believe that he was now getting old? How does he feel when it comes to today’s generation?
8.    What, in the view of the writer, is something that he can no longer afford?
9.    Does the writer still appreciate technology? Why?
10.    How much do you agree with the writer? Do you feel that technology is now moving so fast you are unable to keep up? Why/why not?

cordless – to have no wire or cable connection to an electronic device
Star Trek – A science-fiction TV show that was first shown on television in the 1960s
communicators – communication devices that were the same shape and size of the mobile phone, and which allowed the characters in Star Trek to talk to each other on the planet or to the spaceship
to lap up – here, to take up the attention of someone, to interest them greatly
to switch – to make a change
to dedicate – to give effort and focus to something
to admire – here, to look at something that you like and respect
to absorb – here, to interest you a lot and take up all your attention and energy
to hit someone – here, to suddenly affect you or come into your mind
blocky – here, something that looks like it has been created by a lot of squares or cubes
hidey hole – a place when someone or something hides, also informally used to refer to where you live or stay
quest – a long and difficult search for something
to submit – here, to get something formally sent or given to you so you can consider it or decide about it


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