Slow-tech, and loving it

February 26, 2002|By Jim Sollisch

CLEVELAND - A guy I work with got this tiny handheld computer with wireless Internet and e-mail absolutely free, just for being an "influencer."

It's a marketing technique being used more and more by tech companies like Sony and Palm. They give the next new thing to really cool guys - "early adopters" - in the hopes that they'll impress regular guys like me and we'll run out and buy one. And I probably will - in about 10 years.

I'm what they call a "late adopter." Most people use the phrase synonymously with "slow learner." But that's so unfair. It's just a matter of perspective. Late adopters view technology through geologic time, whereas early adopters are on e-time. So to me, the phone is still new and remarkable. Not the cell phone - the regular phone. I still look for the grooves in CDs. I marvel at my VCR, and I've never even attempted to program it. And the Internet is pure sci-fi to me.

Now don't get me wrong. I use these things. But not with derision, like you early adopters who wish for more gigabytes and more capabilities within hours of your latest acquisition. Oh, I've heard you in Starbucks, cursing the speed of your brand-new laptop's processor, whining about your puny modem. There is no joy in you early adopters. Never a pat on the back for technology, never a kind word. You are miserable in your superiority while I, in my inferior state, am filled with joy.

You think of technology as your religion, and yet it brings no comfort. I stand in awe of every bit and beep and byte. I marvel at my cell phone every time it rings. I have to stop myself from shouting in the crowded street about the miracle of no wires. I love that "ping" that means I have e-mail. It is a sound like the voice of angels.

We humans crave mystery; we want to believe in something we can't completely understand. Well, it's all a mystery to me. I can't fathom how planes fly or how an image is reproduced on film, let alone digitally. And I am happy for my ignorance. I'm glad I wasn't required to take math and science all four years of high school like kids today have to do. As a result, I don't understand technology, I revere it. I'm not waiting for the next new thing; I'm still enjoying the last new thing.

And because I'm not busy adopting all the time - downloading, upgrading, integrating - I actually have time to enjoy the little bits of technology I've mastered. I even have time to walk in the woods and enjoy other low-tech activities, like reading. In fact, I often read while my early adopter friends reconfigure my desktop or program my cell phone because they can't bear to see me so 1999.

And because no one at my office ever asks me to help them when their computer freezes or assist them in burning a CD or sending an audio clip via e-mail, I also have time to do my real job and still be home by 5:30, which I know is so 1972.

Jim Sollisch is a free-lance writer who lives in Cleveland.

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