Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Technically Speaking

Are we doomed? (Photo by Lon Horwedel)

Technology is a great thing … except when it’s not. The question, I suppose, is trying to figure out when we’ve gone too far. Even harder is admitting it.

Personally, I should be livid with the advent of the digital camera, because even though I’m a professional photographer and I take advantage of all the advances in photo technology, the digital camera basically cost me my job.

I became expendable when it became clear that any Tom, Dick, or Harry off the street could buy a digital camera and take a good picture … when I say “good” I mean one that is properly exposed (let’s face it, there are a lot of folks out there toting around thousand dollar Canons and Nikons who still have no sense of light or composition).

What I’m saying is if photographers still had to buy film, meter the light, set the camera properly and then process the film and print the pictures in a darkroom … well, newspapers most likely would still be flourishing instead of disappearing, and it would actually take a fair amount of effort to get all that crap on the Internet (Bye-bye YouTube, so long Facebook!)

Then along came the technological advances in the cell phone market. Soon, it too could take properly exposed, high-resolution images - and videos! The number pad soon morphed into an actual keyboard so people could now text each other rather than … talk.


Before long, it became a “smart phone" which pretty much does everything except act as an actual phone. I'm not sure if people actually even talk on them anymore, but they're a great way to connect to the Internet, play games, figure out where the hell you were, or tell you how much you should tip at a restaurant. We've become App crazy! (About the only thing a smart phone can't do, apparently, is save the life of the guy who invented it.) Now there is an App that lets you actually ask your phone a question and some woman named Siri will gladly answer it for you.


It got me to thinking. Maybe standing in line for hours on end to get the latest version of an iPhone isn’t the best use of our time - or our money. Maybe it’s time we stepped back a little. Maybe pull out a board game or an actual book instead of a Kindle. Let's give our thumbs a break for a while. Maybe even speak to each other face to face for a minute or two. Maybe we should think about how we're going to describe our generation to our grandchildren. (Assuming, of course, our kids will still choose sex over the latest App, and our increasingly fat asses will live long enough to even see grandchildren).

I can hear our stories now. Long gone will be the uphill 5-mile treks to school and back in a foot of snow like we heard from our grandparents. Instead we’ll be telling our grandchildren how rough we had it way back in the day when we had to fire up the microwave oven for a whole minute before we could eat. We'll lament about how our televisions were a whopping three inches thick and the high definition screens were only the size of a small car, and we had to push buttons on something called a remote control to change the channels!

We'll tell them about how sometimes we actually would have to pry our lazy asses off the couch so we could get into our cars and drive up to a window at something called a bank to get money so we could drive up to another window to get food, and occasionally we would even have to drive to some place called an “instant oil change joint” where we would sit in our cars while lesser men than us worked underneath us in a dark pit below the engine to keep them running. (It’s amazing the self-serve pump ever caught on since it’s about the only thing we do for ourselves anymore.)

Still, I'm a little confused because I'm not quite sure which generation I belong to. I guess I’m a "tweener" of sorts. I’m part of the old, but also part of the new. I can remember things from my childhood that needed to technologically advance if we were to survive. Things like the 8-track player which inevitably cut your favorite song in half from one track to the next, forcing you to wait five, maybe 10, seconds for the song to resume on the next track. Or my personal favorite, the lawn darts game called Jarts. I’m pretty sure those who actually survived playing Jarts were left scratching their heads as to how such an amazingly stupidly thought out game, where the players basically try to skewer each other with gigantic darts tossed aimlessly through the air from a distance of 20 or so feet, could have ever been invented in the first place. (Oddly, Jarts seems to have morphed into the popular tailgating game with the unfortunate name of “Cornhole” where beanbags are tossed at targets rather than heavy, pointed metal missiles).

Of course, some of the new inventions and trends from this generation are just as stupid. There are a lot of tatooed kids walking around right now who are going to be second-guessing themselves 20-years down the road when their barbed wire biceps sag and wrinkle, or their tramp stamps ... well, I don't even want to go there. And right at the top of the list, at least my list, is the mind-numbing smart phone. Is it really making our lives that much better? I mean their addictive powers have people crashing their cars, walking into street poles and mall fountains, and basically ignoring all life forms around them.

Why celebrate a victory when you can check out your phone? (Photo by Lon Horwedel)

If that wasn't bad enough, smart phones are ruining my photos too! It seems that every time I take a picture of a crowd at a sporting event going crazy after an amazing play, there are always three or four expressionless people in the crowd looking down at their damn phones. It's like they're completely oblivious to what just happened on the field, or the fact that they’re at a game, or maybe even outside! And it’s not just the crowd. The other night I was shooting a basketball game when I noticed one of the young photographers down the row from me also had his head down staring at his phone, thumbs a blazing. Thank God there wasn’t a loose ball flying out of bounds in his direction or he would have been creamed, unless, of course, his phone was smart enough to put up a protective shield.

I can only imagine the lengths this technology might take us. Soon people will be podcasting their own funerals so that no one really has to travel to pay their respects. And when the funeral is over, I fully expect a lot of folks will choose to be buried with their smart phones. This will, of course, lead to an increase in the age old (and technologically absent) art form of grave robbing, as hordes of cash-strapped iAddicts will grab up their shovels, head for the boneyard, and try to pry the latest Droid from the rigor mortis grip of the freshly deceased before the battery dies.

Oh well, at least they’ll be getting some exercise.


  1. Lon, I must admit that I have the latest iteration of a smart phone and I love it. However, although I also have a Kindle, I still read something called a book every night. All is not lost; I remember when ball-point pens came out and replaced the fountain pen which, of course replaced the quill. The difference between a grave and a rut is that a rut is longer, my friend. I'm afraid we have to welcome all this new technology and get to know it. If you want to battle something, you must first name it. Besides, you are way too young to be such a Luddite.

  2. Oh, and by the way, I'm sure you thought about the fact that everyone who reads your blog will read it on either a computer or a smart phone.

  3. John, The irony most certainly did not escape me. I just hope they aren't reading it when they're coming down the road in the opposite lane!