Four aspects of technology I really don’t understand

I am, admittedly, not as bad as my mother when it comes to understanding the technological trappings of our modern world. I am even sometimes able to provide her with technical support when she calls me with her problems and queries (examples include “how do I like something on Facebook?” and “where is on?”). But, for someone who was born sometime after 1940, I am somewhat of a technological retard, and here are some of the things I struggle with the most…

1. Smartphones
I have a BlackBerry. Apparently this is classified as a smart phone, but I have to say I find it lacking in intelligence. I ask it questions all the time, and the darn thing just stares at me, without even blinking, in that sheepish way that phones stare at people in my overly vivid imagination. “What’s the average amount of rainfall in the Amazon basin?”, I’ll ask it. Nothing. I bet an iPhone would totally be able to answer that.

I also bet an iPhone can do other amazing things like do your taxes or go more than six minutes without running out of battery. So I can understand why an iPhone could be considered a smart phone, but not why my BlackBerry is. On the other hand, my BB has never watched a single episode of The Kardashians or Jersey Shore, so maybe it is smarter than I give it credit for.

2. GPS
It really did sound amazing when it was first made available to the public. A little device that tells you exactly where to go, so that no-one ever has to get lost ever again. It seemed fool-proof.

Except for the fact that GPS’ are actually capable of getting you lost in a variety of incredible new ways. The two most common are the ‘network unavailable’ way and the ‘this can’t be right’ way.

The ‘network unavailable’ way takes place when you are used to relying on your GPS to get anywhere, and the GPS does not work because (and I’m sure some of the cleverer readers have worked this out already) the network is unavailable. In many cases, by the time the network does eventually become available, the driver is either in one of the most remote areas of South Africa (e.g. Polokwane) or has pulled over to the side of the road to sob uncontrollably. In both cases, valuable time is lost.

The second way is the ‘this can’t be right way’. This occurs when your GPS takes you such a clever route that you become convinced that it is getting you lost even though it cannot possibly do so, leading you to change your route so many times that you end up getting to your lunch time appointment at midnight.

Finally, while GPS devices only lead drivers along roads, some of them use the term ‘road’ in the loosest possible sense, and have been known to take you to through some places that should only be chartered by 4x4s or camels.

3. 3G
I once bought a contract for a 3G dongle that was marketed as being able to connect me to a magical world they described as “the internet”. My biggest complaint about it is that it should have included a disclaimer saying “NOTE: This device may only be able to connect you to the internet once a year, and even then only on one particular street of Port Elizabeth, and only if you stand on a chair”.

Come to think of it, I just actually read the fine-print on the contract for the first time, and it actually does include the above disclaimer verbatim. My mistake.

I think that 3G internet contracts should rather be marketed as providing you with the service of giving you a really attractive, shiny dongle that can be used as an ornament in your lounge, and may even in certain situations have the added bonus of being able to connect you to this so-called “internet” place, which brings me to my next point…

4. The internet
In the 1960s, the United States government began working on new ways for different computers to connect, resulting in an international network that later became available to the public, allowing human beings to share important information in new ways.

And by important information, I mean cats being cute. Suddenly, pictures and even videos of cats being cute no longer had to be shared only with a few fortunate close relatives and friends (in the rare cases of cat people actually having friends), but could now be shared with people all around the world.

The internet can be used to share other kinds of important information too, such as videos of people falling off bicycles and even the intimate details of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s private life. The only thing I don’t understand, come to think of it, is why certain websites on the internet persist in sharing boring crap that no-one could possibly be interested in, like literature and quantum physics.



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