I’ve always thought of myself as pretty tech-savvy. I was an early (think 5.25” floppy discs) user of computers, had an email address with AOL, a car with GPS, and carried a Blackberry for business. I was always a little ahead of the curve, I thought.
But twice in one week I’ve been jolted into realizing that all that is so last century, and I’m headed for the scrap heap along with the other technological dinosaurs.
The first jolt was at my beloved alma mater just to the north. It was a lovely day, and my spouse and I decided to pack a picnic lunch and drive up to the campus, where we could eat our bread and cheese while watching the next generation whiz along on motorized scooters and electric bicycles. On a Wednesday we would have to pay for parking, but what the heck – we’d splurge. My spouse wrote out our license number to tap into the pay kiosk, and I had my credit card at the ready, being grateful I no longer had to scrounge for quarters for the meter.
But when we arrived at our preferred picnic table, no pay kiosks were to be seen. Instead, a sign on the curb directed me to pay using my smartphone, with an app to be downloaded if I needed it.
Alas! I had forgotten to plug in my phone that morning, and it languished on the car charger at only 8%. No chance of downloading or paying anything. We cruised around a bit, but every Visitor parking space was marked with the same sign. If one has no functioning smartphone, one is a non-person on this campus. We turned back to picnic at a local park, where parking was free and the younger generation strolled by on strollers and pushbikes as we ate our bread and cheese.
The second jolt was at my local museum, which is currently undergoing a remodel, but where the staff had created an outdoor exhibit, where visitors could amble through the museum garden along a path where signboards and photos illuminated the career of an illustrious local author. I love museums, and usually spend at least an hour per exhibit because I can’t resist reading every explanation on every wall and every caption on every exhibit (much to the chagrin of my impatient spouse).
But I zoomed through this exhibit. Instead of time-and-budget-consuming informative posters, each of the eight pathway markers was adorned with a few photos, a brief paragraph, and four of five QR codes to be scanned for “additional information”.
My phone was charged, this time, and I have a QR code reader on it, but standing in the sun staring at a miniature screen was not compelling. I passed up hearing a daughter talk about her father’s work habits, the author reading from his own work, photos of the author’s boyhood, and many other QR code- accessible features of interest. The thre- step process, the scrolling through screen after screen, the phone held to my ear, the ignoring of my surroundings… I decided I knew enough about the illustrious author without that.
So I may have to confine my visits to my alma mater to late afternoon when the parking limits expire. And when the local museum completes its remodel, I’m hoping it will have the headphones and placards and interactive displays I am used to. Meanwhile, look for me at the Computer History Museum. I’ll be one of the exhibits.