Commentary: My Ongoing Battle With High Tech

By Louis A. Zona

I definitely have a mental block when it comes to high technology. I can barely use an Etch-a-Sketch!

So if you get an email from me, please know that I probably spent half of the morning creating it and the other half figuring out how to send it. OK, I’m not quite that bad but I am amazed when I actually perform an action on my computer.

On more than one occasion, I’m thinking about ways to throw my Dell with an Acer screen into the nearest landfill. Even that would not totally satisfy my need to inflict harm on to that horrible piece of technology that I honestly feel came out of an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”

You may remember when Rod Serling told the story about every machine in the man’s house coming after him with a vengeance. If that would happen to me, I think my electric razor would continue to be a loyal electronic friend. But I’d be certain that my computer would turn on me, having heard me mention quite often comments about running my keyboard over with my Jeep.

I first realized that I had an issue with technology while teaching at a local high school. It was my first professional job out of college, well before the computer age had begun. Teaching art history back then meant that I used a Kodak Carousel slide projector. I became proficient with that machine and even figured out how to change a bulb in it without electrocution taking place.

One afternoon while presenting a lecture on Leonardo DaVinci, I had a Rod Serling moment. Discovering that several students decided to talk about a football game played the previous evening instead of listening to my discourse on the great Leonardo, it happened!

The students, not having seen me before in my angry mode, were as quiet as proverbial church mice when I yelled at them for their lack of attention. For the next three minutes I warned them about never misbehaving again, followed with threats that I would fail the next student who was inattentive.

At that, I turned quickly away from the students to write on the board when the extension cord to the projector seemed to jump up and tackle me – as the students howled with laughter. The curse had begun!

Needless to say, fortunately I did not bang my head on the corner of my desk, although a near collision occurred. My guardian angel must have given up on me knowing how many more times technology would attack.

What probably cemented this apparent war I’ve experienced against technology in all of its many forms was my purchase of a state-of-the-art word processor that I was told would make writing a breeze.

The great thing about it was that it ran on batteries that would enable me to write on trains, planes and the backseat of a friend’s car while he drove. One such car trip had been particularly successful since I was able to complete a multi-page assignment on our way to Steubenville.

Who would have expected that the word processor would be so sensitive to the large power plant on the Ohio River? As we drove through the tunnel beneath the plant, I could see what I had written disappear in front of my eyes. The magnetism from the power plant had attacked the word processor and destroyed two days’ work.

Why I didn’t send that baby flying into the beautiful Ohio, I’ll never know.

I once brought my former automobile to a favorite mechanic since it seemed to have been bitten by the same bug that has turned so many appliances and electronic devices against me.

My mechanic, Alfred, looked under the hood, slid under the car, crawled into the trunk with a flashlight, and again crawled under the car. “Just what I thought,” Alfred announced. “You need a new car.”

One of my very favorite Andy Griffith Show episodes involves Aunt Bee, who is advised by a nebby neighbor, Clara Johnson, that she could save a great deal of money by purchasing a side of beef from a fellow selling meat from a truck along the highway, and not from the town butcher, Mr. Foley.

The only problem was that Bee’s old freezer, now loaded with meat, was apparently on its last legs. No way was Aunt Bee going to purchase a new freezer or pay to have the old one fixed, while Andy begged her to “see the man” about a repair. The old freezer rocked and rolled and then finally gave up the ghost despite even Gomer’s intervention.

In the end, Andy surprises Aunt Bee with a brand-new freezer and all the beef was saved. If only their neighbor Clara Johnson had stayed out of it. And we’ve all had a Miss Johnson in our life.

Now you are not going to believe this but my Dell Optiplex 3070 computer just erased the first part of my paragraphs on Aunt Bea’s purchase of meat and her old freezer. Do you see what I mean?

Sometimes I feel like I’m dealing with Hal from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

So if you read a story in a future edition of The Business Journal about a local man smashing his computer with a sledgehammer, you’ll know whom it was and just what it was that drove him to the brink.

Well, at least my electric shaver has not turned on me – although during my last two shaves I cut my beard a little too closely. Hmm.