The other day, I heard a song on the radio that sounded interesting, but I didn’t recognize the band. So I tapped a few buttons on my cellphone, held it up to the speakers, and about 90 seconds later had the song title and band name.
Depending on how tech-savvy you are, your reaction to this statement will probably fall into one of three categories:
1. Blase disdain. As in, “So what?” This category includes everyone younger than 25, and the people who stand in line when a new iPhone comes out.
2. Cheerful agreement. As in, “Yeah, I have an app like that, too. Isn’t it cool?” This includes a vast swath of humanity for whom smartphones have become ubiquitous, but they are not quite yet inured to their charm.
3. Mystification, disbelief or confusion, with possible mutterings about witchcraft and sorcery. This includes people who don’t know what an “app” is, and those who angrily remind everyone who will listen that they “don’t have the Internet.”
The thing is, even though I am having a total love affair with my smartphone and definitely know what apps are, I tend to fall more into the third category. I may know how to use technology; I just don’t actually understand it.
A few years ago, Ryan North, the author of the online comic strip Dinosaur Comics, came out with a poster and T-shirt to help out people like me.
North wrote, “Many times I have complained to those near to me that if I were sent back in time I would be pretty useless. I am pretty handy with a computer, but it’s not like I can build something functional from scratch. ... With that in mind, I have been researching all of the low-hanging fruit of civilization: stuff that doesn’t take that much to describe once it’s invented, but still produces a useful payoff. The basics of electricity. Radio. Modern medicine. That sort of thing!”