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Columns

August 10, 2013

It's becoming more difficult to stay tech-savvy

(Continued)

I didn’t buy one of his products, but I probably should. Because I am just as useless as North. 

I realize that, due to the same sorcery that enabled me to find out what song was playing on my radio, I can look this type of information up pretty easily. If I type “television” into Google, and click on The Site That Dare Not Speak Its Name (i.e., Wikipedia), I can read a pretty serviceable description of how television signals are transmitted and received. And while I’m reading it, it makes sense. 

But ask me to explain it to you five minutes later, and I’m probably going to falter. The fact that we can transmit signals complex enough to convey vivid, moving images — especially of live events — seems to me to be nothing short of sorcery. And this is technology that’s nearly 100 years old. 

So the fact that my cellphone can somehow “listen” to a song and accurately identify it is totally baffling to me. I am pretty sure the “how” has something to do with algorithms. But, let’s be honest, I don’t totally understand what that means, either. 

I like to think that most of the people around me are just as ignorant as I am about how all this stuff works. But my private fear is that everyone else completely understands the internal combustion engine, and fiber optics, and I’m just a total idiot. 

For many years, this has not troubled me too deeply. After all, I have other good qualities. I am pretty good at spelling, and I can draw. I can cook a few things well, and I know how to drive stick. 

The thing is, now I’m a parent. And while my drawing, spelling and cooking abilities will get me far, I worry that my daughter is nearing the age when she will rely on her parents to explain life, the universe, and everything to her, repeatedly and constantly. 

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