The analog internet

It’s a humbling experience when you reach that point in life when you realize that even your nine-year-old grandson has outdistanced you on the technology superhighway. But that is precisely what happened when Arthur was visiting a week or so ago, because apparently, he’s a technological little wiz.

“Grandma, what are all these books that are the same?” he asked, while I was busy in the kitchen. He was bent to a lower bookshelf in the dining room, peering at the contents with a kind of offhand curiousity.

“Those are my encyclopedia,” I said, not listening as I rushed around, trying to get the meal ready.

“Why did you buy so many that are the same?” came the next question.

“They are not all the same one,” I answered, thinking maybe now was a good lesson for him about “the good old days.” Bending down to join him at the shelf, I pontificated, “These are like your internet, but they are in book form. For instance, suppose you wanted to look up squash.” I pulled out the S encyclopedia, which happens to be divided into two books. I pulled out the wrong one first, of course, and then I fumbled, searching desperately for squash.

“Here we are, squash,” I said, triumphant at last, pointing to the page and looking up at Arthur. He was wearing a look that was a cross between, “oh, my gosh, my grandma is old,” and “in the amount of time you took to look that up, I could have grown a squash.”

As he wandered away to play on his tablet (which I have discovered has nothing to do with paper, by the way), I was left to contemplate the fact that the “information age” has passed me by for certain. I still use those encyclopedias to look things up and not only that, I am in possession of what might be the last paper dictionary in existence.

I admit, I have not even tried to keep up. The advent of the cell phone has left me cold. I don’t mind sitting in one spot and talking on the telephone and I don’t care that my telephone will not take and distribute pictures. Cell phones today do a great deal more than provide vocal communication, they do just about everything but wash your hair (side note, when they do that, or clean the bathroom, sign me up).

It is impossible to go to a restaurant or a social event or even a classroom without seeing those phones in everyone’s hands. They apparently provide all the social contact some need, because I see so many people in restaurants sitting across the table from someone, conversing with someone entirely different on the phone. I used to wonder if I took off my clothes in one of those public places, how long would it take for anyone to notice? Of course, if they did, there would be some interesting pictures of me on Snapchat or something! There are actually support groups out there for people who are too attached to their phones…usually they communicate with each other on phones!

Phones have even affected my conversations with people– those who will look up from their phones long enough to talk. I never say, “I think squash was introduced by Native Americans to….” because I get that far before a forest of phones have cropped up in the hands of everyone there to check out that fact for me. For the record, I was okay with not being sure!

If there is anything worse than the cell phone age, it might be Alexa or Google or whatever invasive, know-it-all machine you want to let into your house. Okay, I get it, this is information at your fingertips, without having to do anything but say, “Alexa, what can you tell me about the origin of squash?” I’d still rather look it up on my own, in the quiet of my dining room, in one of my books that “all look like the same book.”

I once heard a disturbing story about the family with an Alexa, who all scattered in different directions one morning except for one daughter, who slept late, got up and wondered aloud where everyone had gone. Alexa answered her and was correct. Seriously, people are afraid of a tracing chip in their arms, when they tell Alexa everything, everyday, and they don’t know–maybe she works for the CIA!

So my grandson may have to grow up with the fact that his grandma is still addicted to her “analog internet,” and a phone that connects to the wall. And who knows what his grandchildren will be doing when he finds that he has taken a sidetrack on the railroad of progress into the future?

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