Thanks in great part to my husband, I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era of high-tech gadgetry. Perhaps it’s the Y chromosome in him, but he actively searches out all sorts of electronic doo-dads to accessorize his life, from cameras, heart-rate monitors (yes, he has more than one), bike computers, treadmill, iPod, and SwimP3 (for listening to tunes as he swims laps). He has a GPS in his car navigation computer and his sports watch. He has a powertap hub for his bike wheel that measures the watts he generates on rides. “It’s all about the data,” he says.
I, on the other hand, am a Luddite at heart and generally eschew high-tech devices. I did not want a cell phone, and when George wore down my resistance about ten years ago, I only used the phone function and had no idea what other things that phone did. I just didn’t care. My current phone—fourth in the line of phones—is the first I programmed numbers into. It has a camera, text messaging, internet capabilities, email…. I only use the phone and get really annoyed when the phone company sends me text messages. No one else I know “texts” me. My favorite thing about my phone is that it’s cute. And red. And it slides.
God help me, I love the way it slides.
When I went to college, way back in the Jurassic period, only geeky computer science majors used the computer lab. For those of you too young to know, students used to write on notebook paper. I LOVED notebook paper, was quite picky about its quality, and had a very specific method for writing out drafts of papers double-spaced (so I had room to add stuff) and used letters around circled text to indicate where I wanted to move things around. Only when I finished revising did I roll a fresh piece of crisp white paper into the typewriter. In high school, I typed my papers on a manual Smith-Corona. Then mom “upgraded” me to an electric typewriter for college. Even with the electric, footnotes were a pain in the tushy…you never knew how much space they would need, and if you misjudged, you had to type the whole page over again.
In graduate school, I checked out the computer lab and discovered WordPerfect, which absolutely made no sense to me. Then George bought a home computer with Windows and Word. Have you ever done footnotes with Word? Oh my goodness, they are so easy! When I realized that Word had obscure Old English letters—æ, ð, and þ—which I could insert into my papers with a few clicks or keystrokes, I fell absolutely, madly, geekily in love. We medievalists thrill to such small accommodations to our obscure specialty. To this day, I don’t understand why people hate Microsoft’s monopoly. It made my life easier, which is always a good thing.
But I still wrote my papers on notebook paper and then typed them into the computer. It’s taken 13 years to teach myself to compose on the computer. Now, I write my blog essays mostly in Word and then paste them into Blogger, and I’ve even learned some html code. Occasionally, I write the old-fashioned way in a pretty recycled-paper notebook while I’m waiting for Jack as he does his therapy. I still love paper and pen, and haven’t yet taken my laptop out in public. One day, inevitably, that will happen, but not until I get a laptop with a better battery.
To keep track of my busy life, I used to use those fancy day-timer organizers. My favorites were the medium-size ones. The little ones didn’t give enough space to write, and the large ones were just too big. Three years ago, George bought me a Palm Pilot for Christmas. At first, I pretended enthusiasm. I hadn’t asked for one, didn’t need one, and didn’t want one. The idea of transferring all my data from my day-timer to the Palm bothered me. But George had spent a boatload of money on it so I made the effort.
That little Palm Pilot is the coolest gadget George ever bought me. It’s so tiny, so easy to use, so easy to update. It is definitely my favorite gift from George ever.
Until this year.
This year, I sort of expected him to buy me a camera. You see, my digital camera is a Toshiba that my Aunt Sylvia gave me years seven years ago after she bought it late one night off QVC and then experienced buyer’s remorse. I loved that camera (especially because it was free to me), but it has been giving me fits lately. The on/off button doesn’t work reliably, which is a real pain in the butt if you just want to catch a quick shot of your children. I needed a new camera, George is a camera aficionado, and he likes buying me electronic devices. I was sure I’d get it…until I saw a Dick’s Sporting Goods bag on the bed after he had wrapped my present.
Does Dick’s sell cameras? I thought not.
Christmas morning came, and I opened the deceptively big box to find a smaller box inside with a Nikon CoolPix already charged and ready to shoot. George even set the date and everything. Isn’t he just the most thoughtful husband ever? The Dick’s bag, it turns out, was just there by coincidence.
I’m lovin’ my CoolPix.
Mom, from whom I inherited my Luddite tendencies, recently saw the electronic book at Barnes and Noble and is very excited about it. Huh? This is a woman who fears her computer (which my sister and I bullied her into buying) and is terrified that one wrong click will destroy the thing. But when the electronic books come down in price, she plans on buying one. She has lots of good reasons for this act of heresy, but honestly, I’m not sure what’s gotten into her.
I see these electronic books as a sign of the coming apocalypse. Books are living things made of paper, glue, thread, boards, cloth, and ink. I love holding them, opening them, smelling them, creating them. I love surrounding myself with them. I love libraries. I love the sound of a new binding cracking and the soft, susurrous whisper of pages turning.
Pixels and buttons do not give the same sensory satisfaction. They are cold and … electronic. The words on the screen have no permanence, no life. Even George is a tad uncertain about them—he has as many books as I do. I declare, with grave certainty and much kicking and screaming, that I will never, ever have an electronic book.
I have to draw the line somewhere. Consider it drawn.