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Who You Callin’ Slow?

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In the race to adopt technology, some of us takea little more time.

Jeff WeinstockIT’S PROBABLY BETTER not to admit to this, considering my rather high-flying perch on the T.H.E. masthead, but, slow technology adopters, set a plate for one more. I come to empathize, not bury—I am, alas, one of you. I too am afflicted with that unique contemporary malady known as user resistance, marked by a hardheaded tendency to begin counting ceiling tiles at the mere mention of new technology.

Let it be said that I’m not crazy about whoever named our particular lot. Slow technology adopters. Certainly I’ve been called worse, but that’s not a very nice thing to say about someone, now is it? Talk about damning with faint praise. I haven’t been so euphemistically cut down at the knees since someone called my ears bold. Slow technology adopter is code for 20th-century milquetoast who refuses to part with his phonograph.

It’s the slow part that seems a little severe. We slow technology adopters prefer to be called deliberate, or unhurried. Or maybe just late. That’s the one— I’m a late technology adopter. It’s just something I haven’t gotten around to yet, like dusting. I have my reasons. Fear of setup. Fear of instruction manuals. Fear of being jeered by error codes.

In a lot of ways, I’m a ready adopter. I’ve adopted two dogs and a bird. I’ve also adopted my father’s habit of idly chewing his tongue. Heck, I’ve adopted the very laptop I’m writing on. I adopted it twice, in fact—the first one had to be returned: bluescreen error. Therein is the problem: Anyone who has ever been bluescreened will understand my apprehension.

I did get VoIP, though. I’m VoIPed to the gills. I call Japan for 2 cents a minute, and my mother-in-law’s disembodied voice comes pouring through my computer like a phantom. Who wouldn’t pay 2 cents a minute for the luxury of keeping his mother- in-law at such a safe distance?

Other technologies I confess to being slower to adopt. It took me years to get a cell phone. I don’t have a digital recorder, an iPod, or even caller ID. I clung to dialup until I just couldn’t stand it anymore.

When a thing is billed as interactive, I get anxious. Interactive means demanding. I prefer things that are, you might say, intra-active—all the activity occurs within. I’m the receiver; all I have to do is show up. Like with television. Or a haircut.

Even so, I adopt technology at the speed of sound compared to my mother. The woman is baffled by anything more advanced than an egg timer. She rears up when her call waiting beeps. More than once she has called her desktop mouse a gizmo, a thingy, or simply that, with all the affection she once would have had for a grape juice stain.

I’m getting better. I recently bought an external hard drive. There’s a great little tool. It’s like a fanny pack for the digital age—but a lot more masculine. And God bless the drag-and-drop. That’s an innovation I can wrap my head around.

Honestly, I was overcome by a burst of pride when I bought that hard drive. Like a neophyte martial artist getting his yellow belt, I was stepping up in class, from slow technology adopter to medium slow. There’s a word for that as well in the technology business: progress. Each at his own pace, people. Each at his ownpace.

Jeff Weinstock, Executive Editor

Correction: In last month’s issue, the performance of Southwest Independent School District third-graders on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills should have been reported as follows: The total number of Southwest ISD thirdgraders meeting the third-grade reading standard rose from 81 percent in 2003 to 86 percent in 2004, and to 88 percent in2005.We regret the error.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2006 issue of THE Journal.

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