Monday, April 2, 2012

Just call me Dinosaur :p

Dh & I recently got a notice from our cable television provider that they were "upgrading" our service, at no cost to us. (Coincidentally, this was right around the same time they sent us another notice announcing price increases for all their packages. Hmmmm....)

Since we moved into this house 22 years ago, we've always had a fairly basic cable package. All the basic channels plus a few others (CNN, A&E, Bravo, Comedy, TSN, etc.), but none of the premium movie channels or anything like that. Well, apparently, basic cable (like the rotary antenna that used to sit on top of my parents' house when I was a teenager) is going the way of the dodo bird. Everything is going digital -- and, as a result, to continue to receive service, we were told we needed to get a digital converter box. We could pick up as many as we needed from our service provider at one of their retail outlets, or have them couriered to us.

I wanted to pick it up personally, so that I could ask questions about the setup, if necessary. Of course, it took several weeks of nagging (& several reminders from the provider via snail & voice mail) before we actually got the job done, about two weekends ago. Brought home two boxes, pulled the TV stand out from the wall, went through the instructions, plugged everything in and... black screen. Nada. Went through everything again, same result.

Big sigh. Picked up the phone & called the service provider's number, as listed on the notification about the new changes. Went through automated menu hell. Several times. Could not for the life of me find an option that would put me in touch with a real live person who could answer my questions. Had to deal with dh's cursing in the background. (Dh is probably slightly more enthralled with the allure of new toys than I am -- but has little to no patience for trying to figure out how to set them up & make them work. Hence, that has become my department.)

Finally went upstairs, fished out my last bill from the provider & called the (different) number listed on that. Went through yet another long menu of options, but eventually did get a real live person on the line (without being on hold for too long).

"Try unplugging and replugging the cord," he suggested. I did. And it worked. Duh. I felt like an idiot, but at least we had TV again.

Except now we have to use two remote controls -- the one that came with the TV and the one that came with the new digital box. We have to turn the TV on & off with the TV remote, but can only change the channels with the digital box remote. (We also have remotes for the VCR, DVD player, and stereo.)

This past weekend, I wanted to tape a program on the VCR while we were out. Guess what -- since adding the new box into the mix -- even though I didn't touch the VCR wiring -- it doesn't work anymore. I figure one of the nephews will know what to do with it -- we just have to get them to come over (not as easy to do as it once was). Or I suppose I could call the service provider again -- but just thinking about dragging the TV stand away from the wall, going through menu hell (again), etc., made me tired. We were on our way out, I didn't have a lot of time to muck around.

I missed the program instead.

I haven't tried the DVD player yet. I expect it probably doesn't work anymore with the new setup either.

*** *** ***

Speaking of the DVD player -- dh & I were late adapters (are you surprised?). We finally got one about five years ago (just before Blu-Ray became the Next Big Thing, of course). Our VCR (bought in 1999, replacing the original that we bought in 1989) had served us perfectly well (& continues to do so) -- but fewer & fewer (& these days, next to none) of the movies & TV shows we wanted to purchase or watch came in VCR format. (Not that we watch a lot of movies on DVD -- we still like to go to the theatre.)

So, one day during a vacation week, we went to Best Buy and bought a DVD player. Brought it home. Dragged the TV set out from the wall. Read the instructions & figured out what plug went where. Turned it on. Nothing happened. Went over the instructions again -- & again. Could not for the life of me figure out what we were doing wrong.

Realized it was 4 p.m. "The nephews should be home from school -- give them a call," I told dh. Within five minutes, we had a working DVD player (one button on the TV remote that the instructions neglected to mention should be pressed made the difference).

Teenagers may be a pain in the butt -- but they do come in handy sometimes. ; )

*** *** ***

I still have my stereo with turntable & cassette deck (which my parents bought for me for Christmas 1981). We didn't get a stereo with a CD player until the mid/late 1990s, when it had become nearly impossible to buy the latest music from our favourite bands on cassette. (I have many of the same albums on vinyl, cassette AND CD. )(Not to mention movies on both VHS and DVD.)

I do not have an iPod. I may eventually have to cave & get one, since it is becoming harder & harder to find anything beyond either the very latest release or "greatest hits" package for any given artist at my local HMV, where the percentage of the store actually devoted to music has shrunk down to two aisles at the front with the latest releases and promotions and a teeny-tiny section at the back of the store. Fortunately, my sister (an early devotee of Napster) has a massive collection of mp3s & is willing to share. : )

*** *** ***

I was complaining about all the rigamorole involved with getting & setting up the new digital TV box when we got together with BIL & his family recently. "It's about time you joined the 21st century," BIL said scornfully.

BIL is the father of our two nephews, now ages 19 & 23 (the ones we called for DVD setup assistance), who both grew up surrounded by & comfortable with technological wizardry of all sorts. One of my favourite memories of our younger nephew from when he was a toddler is of watching him play the original Nintendo Duck Hunt game, gun pressed directly to the TV screen, soother in his mouth. ; )

BIL has a satellite dish with all the premium digital channels, flat-screen TV, Blu-Ray player, surround sound & enough video game systems & games to last three lifetimes (well, those are actually the nephews').

He can't understand why we still hang on to our 9-year-old Sony 32" set, and haven't bought a flat-screen LCD or plasma yet. Why? Because it's "only" 9 years old, works perfectly fine & I can't bring myself to do away with something that's still working perfectly well. Someone suggested we try to sell it -- or give it away. Apparently they are a dime a dozen these days -- everybody is trying to get rid of theirs, nobody wants to take them. (And if nobody wants our 9-year-old 32" Sony, I have little hope for the 15-year-old Panasonic 10" that sits on top of the armoire in our bedroom. Or the 25-year-old 19" Sony sitting in our basement -- the remote doesn't work very well anymore, and it takes a while to warm up these days, but the picture is still perfectly fine.)

It also drives BIL nuts that both dh & I have cellphones but rarely turn them on when we leave the house. Neither of us text messages, & we don't have data plans. I like the security of having a cellphone with me (have you tried finding a payphone these days?? & even if you can, do you have the appropriate change for it??) -- but I am not at all interested in hearing other people's conversations (although it doesn't seem I have much of a choice these days :p). I don't like having to dodge around people who are too busy staring at their screens to watch where they are going... and I find it more than slightly rude when I'm out for lunch or dinner with people who check their phones for messages every 10 minutes -- so I can't imagine subjecting others to the same behaviour.

I don't have a cellphone for work -- in my company, you only get one when you get promoted to a certain level, & I'm not there. I remember telling my boss the day she got her work BlackBerry, "I don't know whether to congratulate you or send you my condolences," lol.

*** **** ***

Maybe it's a function of aging. Perhaps I was not made for these times.

I grew up in a world where colour TV was a novelty, where you saw a TV show once, maybe twice in reruns, MAYBE years later, in syndication, and it was gone. You saw movies at the movie theatre, & then they were gone, maybe to turn up on TV years later.

We had one TV channel until I was about 14 & we moved closer to the city and to the U.S. border, where our housetop rotary antenna could pick up five channels, sometimes 6 or 7 depending on the weather.

Phones were tethered to the wall (although you could get longer cords -- my best friend's mom had the longest I think I have ever seen to this day), and there was no such thing as voice mail, answering machines, or call waiting.

You sent a (handwritten) letter in the mail and, weeks later, you might receive a reply. (The arrival of the mailman was a daily highlight.)

I had a transistor radio & I played my (vinyl) albums & 45s on my parents' big walnut console stereo. Sony Walkmans became all the rage around the time I was in university but I never had one. I love music, but I never developed the habit of taking it with me everywhere I went.

We read books. Lots & lots of books. We went to the library. We played board games, and cards. My cousins had a newfangled game that you played on the TV set, called Pong -- the harbinger of things to come.

*** *** ***

Here's one story that illustrates when I knew I was getting old -- and dealing with an entirely different generation:

Last summer, I went down to the food court for lunch with Young Coworker, age 25 (half my age, & young enough to be my daughter), and Summer Student (even younger). We all went to different places to get our lunch. I found Young Coworker relatively easily, and together, we grabbed a table.

Then we spotted Summer Student, looking around for us and not seeing us in the crowded food court. We waved, "Over here!" but she wasn't looking our way.

"I'll go get her," I said, getting up from my chair.

"I'll get her," said Young Coworker -- but she just SAT there, pecking away at her BlackBerry -- so I shrugged, got up, & headed over towards Summer Student -- who was suddenly looking at HER BlackBerry.

Then it dawned on me: Young Coworker was TEXTING her with our location.

Needless to say, I felt like an idiot. And incredibly old. (Silly me. Why get off your butt when you can text??)

*** *** ***

Sometimes I can't help but feel that my lack of technology (&, moreover, my lack of desire to keep up with the latest & greatest) is not just a function of my age & my roots in a different time and place, but also a function of my childlessness.

After all, kids these days seem to be born with a computer in their hands. They want the latest & greatest stuff -- and nag their parents until they get it for them. (Dh told me about an interview he saw with a young man, waiting in line outside the Eaton Centre Apple store for the new iPad 3. "I don't care if it's exactly the same as the iPad 2, I HAVE to have one!!" he exulted. Needless to say, that kind of thinking -- the need to have the latest & greatest, simply because it IS the latest & greatest, even if you don't REALLY need it -- is completely foreign to dh & me.)

As a result, parents often wind up learning how to use this stuff too (although never quite as well as the kids). Many of my peers never texted a word until they got cellphones for their kids. They find the kids prefer texting to actual voice conversations, so they've had to learn to text in order to communicate with their offspring.

Now, I am not a complete dinosaur. I spend time every night on my laptop, after all. ; ) I e-mail, I blog, I post on message boards, I am on Facebook (I don't Twitter). I do research for my family tree on and have a Family Tree Maker program to store all of my stuff.

I Skype with my parents (they actually had Skype before I did!!) and with PND & The Princess. I have a Kobo e-reader (although I mostly use it when I'm on vacation & don't want to lug 20 extra pounds of books with me). I do have a cellphone, even if I don't use it very often.

But I just don't feel the urge to keep up with the latest & greatest. Most of the time, when I upgrade or adopt new technology, it's because I have to (as with the digital cable box).

Technology has enriched my life in many, many ways. But it sure has complicated it, too.

Sometimes I feel lucky that I'm free of the obligation to keep up with the latest & greatest, for my kids' sake if not for my own.

But sometimes, it's just another reminder of what's lacking in my life -- and old and how out of place & irrelevant I sometimes feel. :(


  1. I don't know if it's a function of having kids because I have a technologically-advanced kid and I don't have the (1) inclination to upgrade stuff or (2) learn how to use it.

    I've still never sent a text. I don't have it on my phone. We have old televisions that I don't know how to work. I can turn them on to watch a movie, but I don't know how to watch a show. We don't have a DVR. I like a few gadgets, but it takes me a long time to add something new.

    We have someone in our life who is like that -- who uses the cell phone instead of walking 3 feet. Once we pulled into a tiny lot -- a lot that could only hold 20 cars total. And she still called us to tell us where she was standing EVEN THOUGH THERE WERE ONLY 5 CARS THERE.

  2. I am the exact opposite of you although I am trying to cut back on my connection to my phone. Probably doesn't help that my husband is a computer engineer and is always keeping me up-to-date on the latest gadgets.

    I will say I don't know how I lived before DVR.

  3. I think there are a lot of benefits to being a dinosaur :)

    I'm a reluctant technology adopter - it's so prominent in my profession that having a smart phone is almost a facet of continuing education. But I'm thinking I need to start giving myself a day off from tech every week. I've pretty much lost my ability to be in the moment without twitching to see what's going on online, and I don't like that feeling.

  4. I'm actually known amongst my friends as being more technically adept than all (but one) of them. I've even been called over to give a friend a lesson about how to use her iPad. Her two boys (both under 10) know how to use it. She doesn't! So I'm not 100% sure it is related to having kids or not.

    We have a new digital cable box thing, that can record two channels while you watch the third. I love it till it has problems - when we, yes, have to pull out the cable and plug it in again.

    I'm with you on the smartphone thing though (I know you read my recent Nomophobia post!). My cellphone is 6 years old - and I don't know that I want my email following me around.

  5. We dumped our cable provider after a similar "free" service upgrade that had a $60 increase on our next bill. Considering that they also had just installed those digital boxes, I suspect it might be the same one.

    And our TV is 9 years old, and we don't have an "i" anything. We do have smartphones, DVR, and blue-ray, so I suspect we are just slightly ahead of you on the adopter curve. But it's because Manly is a 12-year old boy in a grown up body, not because of the kids :)

  6. I don't think it's a function of having kids, either, because I feel out of date. I think it's a function of being more than a decade past college and married to someone who isn't into gadgets or gaming (thank God). I am much better at setting the DVR than D., though. : )