Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Technology Refuseniks, Part 2

Now we all have smartphones and tablets, technophobia is a thing of the past – isn’t it?

The guy next to me is trying to write an essay on an iPad. It's like watching a toddler eating a plate of baked beans, one bean at a time. (Sathnam Sanghera/@Sathnam)

In 1999, Douglas Adams  satirised a common attitude towards new technology and trends. Everything that's already in the world when you're born is just normal... Anything created between birth and the age of 30 is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it. But whatever is invented after you've turned 30 is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it - until it's been around for about 10 years, when it gradually turns out to be all right really. (BBC February 20, 2012)

Private Eye magazine is still cut and pasted. With scissors and glue. (It would be so easy to recreate the effect in InDesign.)

There are people who wash all their clothes at the same temperature because they don’t know how to change the settings on their washing machine.

And there are people who only click on icons and have never clicked on a hyperlink. If this is you, this highlighted word is a hyperlink and I dare you.

Computer mice were invented 31 years ago - and people are still gripping them tightly and refusing to increase the scrolling speed (and wondering why they're so slow).

The top Google searches are for “Facebook”, “ebay” etc, because people don’t know you can type “facebook.com” into the browser bar, or bookmark them. (Dec 2012)

Maureen Huggins used typewriters for her entire 55 years as a court reporter, saying computers would "kill journalism". (BBC)
John Naughton in the Observer is whingeing about the bad effect of word processors on writing 30 years after they entered our lives. (January 2012)

The internet will produce nothing less than a new generation of surface-skimming morons. (Kevin Maher standfirst, Times January 16, 2012 It's about 30 years old too.)

Hansard (parliamentary) reporters are still (2011) taking notes in shorthand – when they reach the end of a page, they hold it up for a runner. Who presumably takes it to an office where it’s typed out. Why are they not typing into laptops, like the journalists?

I have NO IDEA what I’d use that split screen for. (Linda Grant) I have been using a split screen since the 80s.


And some people type directly into their blogs (they are now madly cutting and pasting and saving from Posterous, as it's about to be shut down).


Why don’t parents use net filters, or turn Google/Flickr safe search on? Why don’t porn addicts clear their cache (“and I checked my partner’s web browsing history…”)?

Fear of technology is projected onto Facebook and Twitter:


That “like” business is so inane!

You mean “Lamebook”? Like “Wrongopedia!” And "Twitface!"

I don’t use Twitter, I just read it to keep up to date. (And you just have a sherry at Christmas.)

Is Twitter, for instance, making people deluded, envious and unhappy as well as silly, mendacious and slanderous? (Nov 19 2012, Times, Libby Purves)

Facebook interactions are shallow because they're only noughts and ones (and phone calls are just electrical impulses?)

Facbook is “the J.D. Wetherspoon of social media” (J.G. Childs/@homespunvintage)

There is something decidedly faux about the camaraderie of Facebook, something illusory about the connectedness of Twitter. (Bill Keller of the NYT May 2011)

Facebook connects you to too many people/cuts you off from people.

71% of tweets go unread!

However patiently you explain to twitter non-users that you don't have to read about S. Fry's breakfast, they still refuse to believe it. (@lindasgrant/Linda Grant)

They think if you tweet something to one of your followers, it is instantly beamed into the minds of everyone in a 500-mile radius, forcing them to read your words, which are usually about what you had for breakfast. (scruffymutt.posterous.com)

But some people tweet insults without realising that all tweets are in the public domain. (They may be catching up.)

A woman wouldn't let her daughter have a FB account. Daughter pleaded, "but then I showed her articles about trolls and cyberbullying". (It’s like not living in a house because the roof might leak.)

Why do 100 Mormons want to be my friend? Why are two glamorous Russian ladies following me on Twitter?

I can’t see the point of Twitter. I never tweet and I don’t follow anybody.

I’m terrified of Facebook – people keep asking to be my friend. I just delete the emails. (A.S. Byatt)

You can customise Facebook (follow that hyperlink). It’s like adjusting your office chair… Oh.

There’s even an email backlash:

Many of us fantasize about doing without e-mail. Yet we find it a tough habit to break. (itbusinessedge.com)

Young people don’t use email any more - they use Twitface.

Some offices have banned email. (Try arranging a meeting in instant messaging that remembers nothing. Wouldn’t you have to take down the details from the screen before they disappeared? Isn't this just another ludicrous management policy like hotdesking or unisex toilets?)


And danger lurks in the Kindle:

All your Kindle highlights are broadcast to the world! (Just to Facebook - but only if you set your Kindle up that way.)

THE PAST
When computers first came in, users got very excited about fonts. In some workplaces fonts were set and you weren’t allowed to change them. This has morphed into a hatred of Comic Sans.

There was a moment (about 1985) when some people thought that if they ignored computers they would just go away. And there was a moment (about 1995) when some people thought that if they made enough fuss they’d be “excused computers” for ever.

They were outraged that they had to save pictures as jpegs. “It’s absurd! It’s baby talk!”

They thought that mobile phones would just go away too, as long as they complained enough about people yelling “I’m on the train!”. (Now they have smartphones with Siri.)

They were ashamed at their ignorance of computers, but they were convinced that everyone expected them to know it all without being told, so they went into denial, looked blank and changed the subject if you tried to tell them anything. It never occurred to them to investigate the software (look at the menus, find out the keyboard shortcuts).

Offices were more hierarchical in the 80s, and higher-ups hated being told how to use technology by an underling. There was a moment when it looked as if managers would never use computers because there wasn’t an executive model in teak-effect, and besides men in suits were never going to touch a keyboard.

When they introduced computers to their offices (reluctantly), they didn’t put the machine on a desk but on a tiny table with hardly any room for the keyboard or for books and papers. And only one staff member was “trained” to use it and nobody else was allowed to have the knowledge. (Some people are stuck in this era and don’t try and find things out for themselves because they expect to be sent on a “training course” and have one-to-one attention.)

It was very hard to use a computer while sitting on an "executive chair" (now all office workers have the same type of adjustable chair, and chair hierarchy has disappeared).

Newbies all propped up their keyboards on the “legs” provided and typed with their wrists on the desk. If you told them they risked RSI and offered them a wrist rest they waved you away like a mosquito. (They seem to have stopped – or perhaps keyboards don’t have legs any more.)

If they learned to touch type they’d say “of course I’m still looking at the keys” or “I’m still typing B with my thumb – for now”.

Long before the internet and networks they affected great puzzlement at the idea of sending a document from one computer to another (“But why would you want to?”).

If they’d only ever used a terminal and mainframe computer at work they couldn’t understand the concept of saving stuff locally. (And now they’re going to have to be persuaded to save it “in the cloud”.)

They couldn’t be persuaded to save their work every time they made a substantial change. (And some people still don't.)

Who was that bloke who said memos were better than email – you’d have to spend 1,000 quid on a mainframe (before the internet) and everybody would have to learn to type!

THE DISTANT PAST
Some people typed in red because they’d put the ribbon in the wrong way up.

People fussed about the introduction of biros - an Evelyn Waugh character called them “some patent stylographic instrument”.

Managers and higher-ups never knew how to put staples in staplers, or paper in photocopiers. (Or use a staple remover.) That’s what “Girl Fridays” were for.

More here.

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