Let me introduce this painful topic by telling you a little tale from years ago, a tale involving a television set.
Years ago, I was walking home from my Tribeca office when I found myself veering into a big electronics store, maybe even Crazy Eddie, on Canal Street, known for discount electronics. Actually, that’s not quite true. It was a street and store known for claiming the electronics were discount, even though they weren’t.
In any case, into the store I wandered. At the time I had a small black-and-white TV. Remember those? No? Never mind. I had begun to watch a lot of football games and was thinking, hm, how much better would it be to see the games in color, the way they’re actually played.
The store had aisles full of (color) TV sets and pretty soon I was approached by an aggressive salesman who asked what I was looking for. I told him, but said I was a little confused. I did want a color TV but wasn’t seeing any TVs with dials. You know, those round things I was used to, the way I tuned into a particular TV channel.
Was that a quasi-sneer on his face? “That’s analog,” he said, as if to a child. “Everything is digital now.” He showed me a remote.
But that’s what I didn’t want, I told him. In my view, the trickier the electronics, the greater the possibility for breakdowns.
“Lady,” he said, “what planet do you live on?”
Oh, I wasn’t going to be called an alien without combat. “Planet Greenwich Village!” I snapped. “You know, twenty blocks north of here.”
I did buy a color TV w/o a dial, but not then and not from that guy.
But I don’t want you to think I’m a Luddite.* Well, not a dyed-in-the-wool one anyway (that was a deliberate pun of which I am ridiculously proud). I am competent enough with my (three or maybe four) remotes to get what I want from my television. I am especially adept at unplugging-and-waiting-five-minutes before plugging in again.
And that seems to be my philosophy of tech life: learn what you need to know to function happily. If you learn everything, you’ll stop functioning.
Does that sound defensive? Well, if so, fuck it.
*I just re-read Dickens’ Hard Times, about English textile workers and their awful owners, at a time (mid-1800’s) when unions began to stir, after the Luddite movement. It reminds me how contemptuous and rigid the millennia-long British class system has been. Working class uprisings were violently destroyed, without any intelligent recognition within the British ruling class of the need to adapt to a society whose majority was poor and working class.
That was my infuriated reaction throughout reading The English: A Social History, 1066-1945, by Christopher Hibbert. America’s ruling class wanna-bes have provided us with an excellent short word to describe the British ruling classes and themselves: unwoke. Forever unwoke. Possibly genetically unwoke.