FURTHERMORE AND THE TECHNOPHOBIACS
Everyone has phobias. You know…the fear of something, from snakes and spiders to Elvis lookalikes and peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. Furthermore, my irascible pet Masonic raven, keeps threatening to make peanut butter and bat sandwiches. They hang upside down from the roof of your mouth, he says. Rimshot, please.
But I digress.
I have several personal phobias. Most are, quite frankly, none of your business. We may even share some of the same phobias. Still, that’s our business and I trust you are not going to tell anyone. I’m certainly not.
But I digress again.
As I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself, everyone has phobias. One of mine that has endured the centuries and all my years with Furthermore is technophobia. Fear of technology. Furthermore, who tends to be a pretty much hip and with it bird, glories in teasing me about this issue, so it can be a sore spot.
Anyway, with that confession in mind, my definition of technology in these early days of the 21st century is very simple. Technology is anything that doesn’t work.
When I first began my career as a writer ( I know. Career and writer in the same sentence does smack of an oxymoron. Still, there you have it.), the first rule of good writing the scribes taught us was always keep the clay damp. If it got hard, you were really up the crick without a stylus. Then technology began to change and so did our rules of good writing. Always keep your quill sharp. Always put the carbon paper in shiny side down. Press any key to continue. And such like.
At each of these stages, different technologies were involved. Just about the time we got ‘em figured out, something new came along. Usually, it didn’t work. They we got the bugs out and it disappeared in favor of something new. This is Furthermore’s point of view, and, as usual, there is a certain sort of weird logic to it.
Confused? Yeah. Me, too.
Here’s an example that might help. I have a pencil on my desk. It’s a good, old-fashioned yellow wooden pencil with green bands about the blunt end where the eraser is. The other end is pointy. There is something special about that end. Hmmm. Now, if I can just remember what. Just kidding.
There was a time when pencils were the peak of communications technology. Hard to imagine, of course, but it’s true. The pencil is still a form of technology. But we’ve forgotten that point because it always works. And because it always works, it has become invisible and we don’t consider it to be “technology.” It’s just there. It doesn’t break down (unless we throw it at someone or some such thing). With a moderate degree of care, we can use it for a very long time with absolutely no support from anyone else. It’s the ultimate in technological perfection. But for precisely the reason that it always works, we don’t consider it technology.
I also have a 70-year old manual Royal typewriter. I’ve had it since high school and it was old then. After some 60 years of doing its thing, I finally had it cleaned and oiled up. Don’t smile. You try to find a technician who can still work on a manual typewriter. Hell. Try to find one who knows what a manual typewriter is. Duh. Where’s the monitor? It’s good for another 70 years now, I suspect.
Which brings me, finally, to my point. Technology today is anything that doesn’t always work. Because it doesn’t always work, our attention is fixed upon it. Will the network go down? Will my e-mail work today? Will my files still be there when I come back from lunch. What does it mean when the screen says my program has performed an illegal function and is being shut down? What did it do? Vandalize the computers in Sales? Do I have to do Windows? Who is General Protection Fault and what’s he doing in my computer?
Anyway, for me, technology is a term reserved for all those things that don’t always work the way my pencil always does. Now—and here I’m really going out on a limb for your benefit—I suspect the day will come when all this stuff does work. I know. Pretty amazing, but I have faith and I believe that anything is possible. And when that does happen, then what? Well, we’ll find something new. Something wonderful. Something grand. Something expensive. Something completely incompatible with everything we currently have. Something that doesn’t always work. And we’ll call it the new technology. In your heart, you know I’m right. Technophobia! The fear for the future!