Friday, November 2, 2012

True Confessions of a Technology Addict

Hello, my name is Jim, and I'm a technology addict. (This is your cue to say, "Hi Jim!")

New Yorkers waiting to buy an iPad Mini (photo by Fortune)
You probably know at least one tech addict. Maybe you're one, too. If nothing else, just check out the line at an Apple store when a new product is released. Case in point: Today, some 600 people stood in line at the Fifth Avenue Apple store to buy a new iPad Mini, while other long lines formed at gas stations and grocery stores in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Whenever priorities seem so out of whack like that, there must be an addiction lurking.

Fortunately, my childhood was free of technology addiction. Of course, outside of a cute, portable, black-and-white Sony TV, there wasn't much consumer technology to get worked up about in the 1960s. The Sony TV only got a few channels anyway, and they were fuzzier than a Chia head eating a peach.

Somewhere around age ten or 11, my father gave me an electric typewriter, a hand-me-down from his photography studio. I was thrilled; it was as if my efforts to tell stories suddenly acquired power steering. I tapped away for hours at a time, drafting incoherent yarns and adolescent plays that embarrassed me then and would mortify me now.

Kaypro PC
I kept the typewriter throughout college, writing term papers and short stories. By the mid 1980s, something even better came along: a PC. I saved and bought a Kaypro, an MS-DOS computer made by a short-lived, family-run computer company whose demise was due to "too many Kays and not enough pros," according to one wag.

Eventually, the Kaypro led to my first Mac, which led to more Macs as well as more PCs and then to laptops and smartphones and iPads, oh my. Today, our home is filled with everything from an iPod nano to a 40-inch Samsung HDTV.

How did this addiction happen? Maybe its roots can be traced to the typewriter. I loved this machine because it gave me a new, easier way to write my stories, and for whatever reason, I have had a compulsion to tell stories since I was a kid.

My father, the Southern gentleman photographer
At any rate, the addiction kicked into a higher gear 20 years ago, when I was working as an editor for Publish. The working environment at this magazine was often so dysfunctional, we nicknamed it "Punish." But I learned something of lasting value there: how to use technology in new ways to not only tell stories but to illustrate them as well. During this period, I got everyone in my immediate family, and most of those in my extended family, to write down the fondest memories of their lives and send me their favorite pictures. I digitized it all, used page layout software to design a book, printed multiple copies, and had the books bound. It was none too soon. My father died a year later.

Over time, someone we loved who has died inevitably fades in our memories. It's sad, it's even a little scary, but it happens. Stories--their stories, in their words--keeps them alive in ways that a photograph can't. Now that I've come clean with my technology addiction, it occurs to me that preserving the stories of people who won't be here one day to share them is my true addiction. Technology is just the enabler.

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8 comments:

  1. Hi. My name is Judi and I'm an addict. I'm addicted to your blog.

    What a wonderful idea to have people write down their stories and their version of events. I know you must enjoy those tremendously.

    And Dad? Love him.

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    1. Thanks for being addicted to my blog, Judi. That's the kind of addiction I love! Jim

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  2. Once again, you've touched many moments that are familiar to me, too, Jim. I can still hear the dual floppy drives on my first PC grinding as they booted the computer and processed information. Ah, the good old days.

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    1. Chris, I remember having all my data stored on ONE floppy disk. Lord help me. That makes me feel 10,000 years old.

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  3. What a great post! I've been meaning to video tape by dad making his homemade corn tortillas for a long time now and I've not made the time. Dad is 83 years old and while he's in good health I shouldn't wait much longer. I too am addicted to technology, I love it!

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    1. Thanks Alicia. Don't wait much longer to make that video! I made some video of Nick's Mom about two months before she died, and I can't tell you how much I treasure it.

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  4. Beautiful Jim, truly. I love how you can turn a post about technology into a story of love. You know what? I am a technology addict too! (Hi Bill!) Not only do our stories live on paper, but they will be circling the globes as zeroes and ones long after we're gone, and the world will be all the better for it.

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  5. Hi Jim! My name is Jamison, and I'm a tech-addict too. I write about tech-addiction over at www.RecoverLog.com, and research it at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

    Thanks for the article. Bringing awareness to tech-addiction is important.
    jamison

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