Posted by: Jenny | Sunday, 21 June 2009

Technology is getting me down

OK, so I’ve never been what you might call an early adopter.  I love technology, but before I buy any new gadget I like to have some idea what I’m going to use it for.  Also, since I abhor waste, I tend to hang onto things for quite a while and am reluctant to trade in a perfectly functional device for the latest model.

And so it happens that our TV is 17 years old and still doing good service for my parents-in-law; meanwhile we are using the old TV kindly lent by our daughter-in-law.  Small, basic, functional and very welcome while we look for a new one.  Selecting a new TV is not an easy process, especially when you want to ‘future proof’ your purchase in case this one, too, is still going strong in 15 or 20 years’ time.  But I am sure that when we make up our minds and invest in this new technology, we will have fun with it.

Computers also have the potential to be fun to use.  Once or twice I have even found them to be so, but most of the time they are just useful.  Well, that’s OK too.  I love software, and since my career has been in software development I am well aware that you can make software do just about anything – at a price.  To me, this is the magic of computers.  Each new program that makes me go ‘ahhh’ gives me renewed confidence in the power of the human imagination and its constant inventiveness.  But lately computer software and its increasing dependence on bigger, beefier hardware and fast internet speeds is a source of great frustration.

One evening last week, for example, there was a half-hour programme on the 1969 moon landings that I knew Martin would be sorry to have missed.  I undertook to download it for him, using BBC iPlayer.  I waited till late in the evening, so that the download would run overnight, in case the download process should impact internet speeds for other local users.  (Does this happen? I don’t really know… but I suspect it must.)  On logging onto BBC iPlayer, I was informed that the version of the program I downloaded less than 6 months ago is obsolete.  I must download the new software and delete the previous program. I did so. Half an hour later it is time to try again to download the TV programme. I start the download, and it stops almost immediately.  Why?  The message reads ‘no internet connection’.  But I am connected to the internet, I scream.  I go to the ‘help’ page to try to diagnose the problem.  It suggests I need to change some security and privacy settings.  Reluctantly, I do so.  The download still doesn’t work.  The software helpfully assesses my internet speed.  At 300kpbs, it is marginally more than 10% of the national recommended minimum of 2mbps.  So, what can I do?  At this point the ‘help’ ceases to be helpful.

Meanwhile, changing the privacy settings has upset some other programs which don’t particularly like to be private, notably Facebook.  In fact Facebook won’t even let me log in unless I am prepared to let the site know everything I am doing.

The technology has defeated me again.  Reluctantly, I acknowledge that our new TV may be swiftly followed by a new computer (did I mention that our PC is 5 years old?) and even then, the chance of a broadband upgrade for our rural community is slim.  I could just forget about computers altogether.  Hmm … I can live happily without TV; but life without a PC is unimaginable.

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