Thursday, May 26, 2016

Is There an App for That?

     The time: last night, about 9:30 p.m. B, the librarian, is doing something in the kitchen when she calls out to me, "Is it about time to walk the dog?"

     I am sitting comfortably in my recliner reading a book. My shoes are off. I'm getting toward the end of The Oregon Trial by Rinker Buck, who a few years ago bought three mules and a wagon and set out with his brother and his brother's terrier, Olive Oyl, to recreate a 19th-century pioneer voyage from Missouri to Oregon.

     I look up from the page, then back down, where Buck is skidding precariously down the side of a cliff in Wyoming, about to tip the wagon over into a gulch.

     "Come on, Tom," the librarian calls out again.

     I'd think a librarian would be more understanding of my need to at least finish this chapter. So, thinking myself clever, I call out to my librarian, the proud owner of a new smartphone: "Hey, isn't there an app for that?"

     Needless to say, about 30 seconds later I was off the Oregon Trail and out the door, leash in hand, taking the dog down the driveway.

     But as I walked the dog in the chilly night I began to wonder: How much has technology actually improved our lives? After all, there's no app for walking the dog.

     Okay, I could have been reading The Oregon Trail on a kindle or other electronic device. But it would have been the same story. And besides, I wasn't using my kindle. I'd gotten the book the old-fashioned way. I'd borrowed it from our local library.

     Later, getting ready for bed, I made my usual ablutions in the bathroom. And I recognized that the typical middle class bathroom has not changed a bit in my entire lifetime. The same toilet, the same toilet paper, the same faucet and sink and medicine cabinet. The style might be slightly different; but otherwise these items are no different from those found in the bathroom when I was a little kid in the 1950s.

     So how much has technology really changed out lives? How much progress have we really made?

     Granted, we carry around a smartphone and can text and email and access the internet at a moment's notice. But when we actually do make a phone call, the connection was really better on our old land line. And what do most people do with their smartphone when they're waiting in line or sitting on the bus or train? They are playing Candy Crush or Words with Friends. Other than being electronic, these games are not all that much different from the Chutes and Ladders and Scrabble we played as kids.

     My car has air bags and other safety features. But other than that, is it much different from the car I drove 50 years ago? You still fill up the gas tank at the service station, get in, start the car, and use the steering wheel to roll four petro-tires down the road at 60 mph. Well, there's one difference. There's no service at the service station. Oh, and another. The traffic is worse!

     Admittedly, when I was a teenager our car did not even have a radio. But we hung a small transistor on the little handle of the front vent window (remember those?). And boy, I recall having a lot more fun listening to The Rolling Stones belt out "Satisfaction" back in 1965 than I do today sedately listening to Sara Bareilles warbling on my fancy new XM radio.

     I don't want to sound like an old curmudgeon. I do love my laptop, and I love email, and I love google. I'm just not completely enamored with the smartphone. If only there was an app to walk the dog . . .
    

15 comments:

DJan said...

Funny. I was thinking how much different things are today, with Google available 24/7, and while I'm out and about if I wonder how old somebody famous is, I just stop and look it up on Wikipedia. But yeah, there's no way to phone in my exercise routine. In some ways nothing has changed, and in others it's entirely different. :-)

Wisewebwoman said...

I do love your slice of life reports and subsequent mulling. I have those same thoughts myself. How far advanced are we when we can't even manage climate change (I just finished reading an abysmal report on the fate of our glaciers and ocean uprisings - gack!)

XO
WWW

LovingRetirement in SD said...

Love your blog. Being a fellow boomer, I always enjoy your interesting comments. Your app is not that far off from reality. See this video titled "Walking dogs with Drones"
https://vimeo.com/95078536
Now the only issues will be with the FAA, buying another piece of technology, and trying to convince the dog. The one in the video didn't seem too impressed. In addition watching this video I can think of too many things going wrong.

Besides actually walking the dog, as I'm sure B has mentioned, is good for both you and the dog.

Tom Sightings said...

WW and LR in SD -- Thank you for the compliments. To be honest, I subscribe to the ice-cream theory of good health. B the librarian subscribes to the exercise theory of good health. And so you see, in spite of myself, she keeps me in good health ... I guess she wants to keep me around for a while!

Still the Lucky Few said...

The more things change...well you know the ending to that! The biggest changes we've seen come in the field of communication, I suppose. Although there are big changes in our cars, if we wanted to take advantage of electric cars, hybrids. But you are correct, the basic engine design is the same. I prefer reading a 'real' book, and I dislike the iphone. The changes that have made the most difference to women, kitchen appliances, were (mostly) all available during the 50s.

Joared said...

I agree with your observations about some of the changes we see aren't really that different from when I was a child. Interesting to me is I discovered soon after listening exrensively to digital music there was a wholeness lacking in the sound compared to my LP records, Now there's a resurgent interest in recording music on LPs by quality oriented musicians better able than I to describe the technical musical features they, too, hear differently. Appliances are more convenient but programmed for shortened lifetimes compared to when mechanical longevity was a prized quality. The differences are more profound from my Mother's' day in the first half or so of the twentieth century. Maybe we'll see more differences by another 20 years.

Dick Klade said...

Much depends on the time frame. I'd never thought about the lack of changes in bathrooms. Now that you've taken us there, I note one major change since my childhood. We had no shower, just a bath tub. Of course, the few folks older than I may recall those wonderful outhouses that preceded the bathrooms of my youth.

Olga Hebert said...

Technology will invade the bathroom soon enough I am sure. I am thinking maybe Oprah has wifi in all her bathrooms.

gigihawaii said...

I guess the moral is: Don't own a dog in the first place.

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

Once again you prove that the more things change..... However, i love my new Kindle fire for reading.

Rian said...

To add my 2 cents here... I still prefer a book to my e-reader, but I love my iPhone! Also I love email and texting, but do miss writing and getting letters.

Tom Sightings said...

As a kid, B the librarian became familiar with the outhouse during the summers she visited her grandmother in Pennsylvania. Olga, as for wi fi in the bathroom, I think I'll pass. I don't think I want to see or hear what's going on in there. And Gigi, I won't tell my dog you said that!

Barbara - said...

Well, I get a much better connection with my phone than land line and use my smart phone for everything under the sun, including having a Kindle app, but I may be wierd. A blog waiting to be written?

Jono said...

I also disliked being "asked" to do something before I finish a chapter. About 50 years before us many bathrooms were still out back and I know there is no app to change bathroom business.

Barbara Torris said...

I want an app to do my walking for me. Sigh!

You will laugh at me but I just bought a Romba iRobot to vacuum my floors...we had a $200 gift card from direct tv so in reality they bought it but still. It is such a hoot to watch that little round box figure out the room and then clean it.

I have always thought that the more things change the more they stay the same. You are so very right...nothing much changes while we are changing everything!

b+