The Wide Angle: Puzzling out the paradox of our tech

Published 6:45 am Saturday, March 16, 2019

Tuesday night was a stressful one for me, but it wasn’t until the very end of my very long day that my patience finally snapped and it all had to do with technology. That which we all take for granted and assume it will always be there.

Until it isn’t.

But first the preface of my little story.

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With the Austin Packers girls basketball team going to state (insert appropriate applause here for a well-earned postseason), there comes a special section we put together. The tab includes going over the season that has passed and looking to the postseason that lies ahead.

That’s what first contributed to the long day. Assembling the tab itself, followed by the assemblage of the paper.

For the most part, aside from a couple of typical bumps in the road here and there, both came together just fine, until it came time to send the pages to press.

We didn’t know it until later, but Gmail had gone down pretty much everywhere. More often than not complaints involved trying to send attachments, which we were trying to do at the time.

Between myself and Rocky Hulne, and after some creative use of the English language, we finally connected up with Bo in Albert Lea and got the pages sent through Yahoo.

Yahoo, if you’re reading, it might be a good time to start a new ad campaign.

It wasn’t pretty and we could have had everything to press much earlier, but there you have it. That’s the age we now find ourselves in.

Later, as I was driving home, dutifully impressed with my new and interesting uses of the English language, I began thinking back to a time when technology wasn’t so “every day” as it is now.

I got my first cellphone at the ripe old age of 23 or 24 I believe, convincing myself I needed it for my daily drives from Brookings, South Dakota, to my internship at the Pipestone Star in Pipestone, Minnesota.

I figured with the amount of driving that included the incredibly late drives home early Wednesday mornings after putting the paper together, it might benefit me to have a lifeline to the rest of the world should anything happen.

Not that it really mattered. I lost reception about five miles out of Brookings, which is troublesome in a day and age when cell phone towers were about a billion miles apart. Exaggeration, I know, but it proves my point.

My first cell phone was a gray brick in my pocket and anything but convenient, but I had a mobile phone. It was instant status. I was a professional. I was suddenly part of the future, with no real context as to where this world would take me — take us.

It was an exciting time in my life. It’s goose-bump raising to know that I was alive for the start of the cellphone era, complete with that context to see where it came from.

It’s a minor thing now, to think a cellphone could seem that important, but that little device revolutionized the world we live in.

Along the way I saw the rise and prominence of laptops, from using those green-screened behemoths requiring a phone line to the MacBook Pro I’m currently typing this on, which only requires a wireless signal to connect to the world.

Maybe that’s why I became so irritated Tuesday night. I remember long nights covering the South Dakota State Volleyball Tournament, trying to log a story from Watertown at about 10:30 p.m. and relying only on a connection through a flimsy phone line that was anything but sure.

That same story can now be logged infinitely quicker and thus life in the technology age we currently live has spoiled many of us, me included, to a point where if one thing doesn’t work, it throws an entire night off.

I commend Bo for handling it as calmly as he did, as well as Rocky, because I was starting to steam. Ask anybody who knows me and they will admit that I’m not the most patient man in the world.

More than any of this, I can say that I lived in a period that has seen the massive advancement of technology, but still remember the rotary phone. That also means remembering a simpler time, when I wasn’t tethered to technology. On a Friday night in college I could go out and not worry about being connected. I could just go down to Jim’s Tap in Brookings, knowing that sooner or later my friends would be joining me and if they didn’t, I didn’t worry about it.

There comes a certain expectation with technology, that you can simply reach out and find somebody at the whim of a few taps on a phone’s face. Unfortunately, there comes with that a certain impatience when messages are answered right away. An impatience I don’t recall when I was in college.

All of our attention was on the moment in front of us so it begs the question, has the rise of technology taken the “moment” from us, or made it more convenient to the point of expectation?

I imagine it’s the monument of perception and only from the top of this monument will we see our own perspective. Right or wrong, it’s all perspective.

Still, with perhaps more than one unanswered question, I’m sitting in the dark, lamenting just a little for a time when technology wasn’t so depended upon.

It all just seems much more simple and in this world, I think we can all use a little more simple.