Techno Challenged

If it’s true there are seven wonders in the natural world, then surely this is the eighth. The world’s most incompetent techno-challenged is boldly composing this on a brand new, state-of-the-art iPod. It’s his first, and is called by its given name: Apple Air Pad 2 — a way-ward present Santa Claus must have left under the wrong tree on Christmas morning.

After I stared at it dumbly for 20 minutes, my three year old grand-daughter interrupted her own packaging and assembly problems to show me how to turn it on. Now, a week later, a surge of confidence convinced me I’m ready to compose a confession, then possibly email it to a publication, which I assume will know what to do with it if we get to that point.

And that’s a big ‘if’.

Those of you born and raised in the techno-generation will need some perspective to comprehend what a stupendous accomplishment this is, and why it’s worthy of publication.

Like most members of my generation, which some misfit-nitwit writer labeled “Baby Boomers”, because so many of us were conceived during or after drunken victory parties celebrating the end of World War II, I first learned to write using a Crayola on paper. Come to think of it, it’s a technique still in use today, if my grandchildren are normal examples of the cradle-to-grave Super Technology Generation. They can make a rat jump over a garbage can on their computers but their handwriting is like Montessori hieroglyphics. It’s nice to know some things never change, but that is where the similarities end between their generation and mine.

I next learned an ancient discipline called “penmanship”, which most of my young classmates hated, but not I, because I knew from a very young age that words were my friends and I wanted to treat them well — or at least well enough to be readable in case anyone other than myself wanted to comprehend them.

I started typing as soon as my hands became big enough to reach the keys. This was in grade six, or maybe seven. It was scientifically proven that you could write faster with a typewriter, so why would anyone want to lollygag with a fountain pen?

At one time, fancy typewriters were considered a marvel of the modern world, and when they went electric in about 1960, old timers just shook their heads in awe at the wonder of technology; a good typist could crank out words like a Gatling gun, and the world was about to be flooded with more good literature than at any time in history since the invention of the printing press.

Now we fast forward 25 years to the winter of 1987-88 when your fast-typing foolscap is the 40-year-old sports editor of the Whistler Question. He made the best deal of his life, resulting in all-expenses-paid winters in Europe writing about World Cup ski racing for 17 community papers in BC and Alberta (all connected in some way to the skiing business), and four major dailies across the country including the two biggest and best in Canada, the Toronto Star and Montreal Gazette.

It is the opportunity of a lifetime and, although it sounds complicated 28 years later, it was actually a very simple deal: In exchange for driving their five-ton Mitsubishi equipment van full of skis and luggage over the Alps all winter, the Canadian national alpine ski team agreed to pay for my flights, meals, hotel rooms and non-liquid incidentals. And since it was the season culminating in the 1988 Calgary Olympics, selling it to Canadian newspapers was like selling Timbits to kids. They all agreed to buy everything I wrote so they could sell ads to sponsors promoting their products at Calgary.

The ski team wanted ink to maximize their exposure to the home-game Olympics. I dutifully headed across the briny Atlantic to seek my fame and fortune.

I made my first mistake before I even left Canada. When I got to the airport in Vancouver, I had way too much luggage and had to send about half of it back to Whistler, including my trusty portable typewriter. This didn’t concern me at the time because every press centre I’d ever been in had a bank of community typewriters, and I’d been assured such was the case in Europe as well.

I learned upon arrival in Munich that European typewriters bear no resemblance to North American ones. None of the letters are where they’re supposed to be, and they have extra letters we’ve never seen. I would literally have to seek out every letter in order to form a word after 25 years of not even thinking about it. Suddenly I felt like someone who went on a bear hunt armed with a pea-shooter or a slingshot. How was I supposed to write and transmit stories to the expectant multitudes back in Canada waiting to hear about their ski team? Where was technology when I REALLY needed it?

It was in Hintertux, Austria.

That was where I met Randy Starkman, of the Toronto Star, for the first time. He was sitting in a restaurant with a keyboard in front of him filing a story in between bites of wiener schnitzel and sips of wine. When I asked him what it was, he said, “My word processor.”

It was the first time I ever heard the term and I watched in stunned astonishment as he tapped a key and zapped the story to his boss in Toronto. It remains one of the sickest feelings of my life looking at exactly the technological machine I needed to do my job and make tons of money but not able to get my hands on one.

I spent that entire ski season hand-printing long stories from Europe on lined legal notepads then fighting Europe’s antiquated WW II telephone systems to fax them back to Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Whistler before deadline. I had 22 deadlines on weekends and was often faxing until midnight.

It made me hate technology, and I still do today.

Oh, I kept writing and editing for another decade-and-a-half, and won some awards for my layouts utilizing Quark Express, but I never really understood how or why it all worked. I totally bought into the Y2K theory, refusing to purchase my first PC until I was convinced the Internet wasn’t going to implode with the new millennium.

When your brain was raised by typewriters, techno keyboards, including this one currently beneath my finger (I only use one nowadays) seem like something from outer space.

I finally gave up on the whole situation in 2003 and deserted penurious journalism for the big bucks of the oil patch where it was necessary for me to carry a cell phone, because everyone else has them. Lo and behold, my phone had a computer inside of it, and gradually, over ten years, I figured out how to use it for things other than keeping in touch with the office. But I was still, technically, a techno-virgin until this Christmas.

Now, I’m a techno-train wreck again because I have 32 stories on my iPhone, two on this Air-Bag and no idea if I’m going to successfully morph into a techno-freelancer or a dumpster-diver behind McDonalds. I’ve tried five times to start a blog with this result: BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!

For my money, as a former spokesman for the Baby Boomers, I could have lived a long, satisfying and happy life with 1955 technology.

And the cars were cooler too.

Now, let’s see if this techno-contraption can actually send an email to confirm the eighth wonder of the world.

If you’re reading this, it worked. If you’re not, you’ll never know what a bad day I’m having.

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top