Are you a cutting-edger, an in-betweener or a resister?
People were broken into those three categories in a series of stories I coordinated while working for The Gazette in Colorado Springs, “Technology in Everyday Life.”
Cutting-edgers embraced the latest gadgets and wirelessly con-nected their lives to others of their ilk. In-betweeners saw technology’s potential and dabbled in it even as they despaired of being able to keep up. Resisters? Well, some of them weren’t even sending e-mails or talking on cell phones!
No one would accuse me of being a cutting-edger. When compact discs were taking over the music world in the ’80s, I stubbornly stuck to vinyl. If I still had a turntable these days, I’d be cool in a retro way. Now all my music is on CDs, and I’ve been left behind again.
I feel little urge to keep up with the technological times, but equipment breakdowns eventually force the issue. When my home CD player quit working, I looked into replacing it. But practically no one is selling component-style CD players anymore, just the portable models. So I bought one of those, with an anti-skipping feature. It skipped. And, it looked silly hooked up to my boxy receiver, my boxy cassette player (remember those?) and my monolithic speakers.
The music-listening world has moved on. Cutting-edgers may show off turntables in their living rooms like tributes to the purity of the past, but the truth is they have their entire repertoire of
collected songs crammed into handheld devices that also cruise the Internet, text-message, etc.
I’m barely an in-betweener, with some resister tendencies. Left to my own devices, I would have tracked down a component CD player and continued ’80s-style.
There hasn’t been much good music produced since then anyway, but that’s another rant. Maybe I would’ve found one of those nifty carousel players that hold three or five CDs — something that might have impressed people in, say, the early ’90s.
Fortunately, my 26-year-old son took pity and gave me an obsolete — to him — handheld MP3 player. It holds, let me see if I can get this right, 3 gigabytes of music. That’s enough for every song I’d ever want to listen to more than once, all in a device the size of a cell phone. It also looks funny hooked to my aforementioned boxy stereo components, but it doesn’t skip.
And so I trundle on, adapting to technology that’s new to me, but already outdated if you’re a cutting-edger. I won’t catch up. I will fall further behind.
I recently received a company-issued Blackberry. It’s not the very latest thing, but it does roll the functions of a cell phone and laptop into one gadget, albeit with the tiny screen and keypad that only seem fully functional to the younger generation.
The other day in the newsroom I verbally commanded my Blackberry to make a call. This raised the eyebrows of the 20- and 30-somethings on my staff. “Oooooh,” they intoned in mock appreciation. I returned to my office, an old man at 53.
In their cutting-edginess, do they recognize the ironies of the times we live in? That the relentless march to make our existence easier makes it harder? That technology is extending our lifespans while making us hopelessly outdated sooner than ever?
The resisters would understand.