My parents don't live much in the Internet age. You and I might be able to surf endlessly on the Web for hours at a time and call that entertainment. My parents are old school. They prefer to read newspapers. Their concession to modern society is getting Chinese programming, which they can now do via Dish TV.
Even this is a minor concession. Most content providers, filled to brim with channels, give people a small tool to try to manage the plethora of channels called a guide. The guide is tiny, sporting a few channels at a time, but it lets you know what's on, to the extent the stations don't change the shows on them last minute.
Parents don't use that. They have a card, and that card tells them what channel is what. Guide is a foreign concept, and they haven't adopted it yet. It's not they aren't smart. They're plenty smart. It's that they aren't particularly adaptable. The generation of computer users, especially savvy ones like you and me, that find some mild entertainment from blogs, are able to navigate the minefield of modern UI design that tries to instill in us the necessity to do something new.
What software exists out there that doesn't require a tome the size of the Torah to use? How much of this software is discoverable? We have "wizards" to help us install stuff, but no wizards to help us use stuff. Indeed, we must learn how to use our software.
Recently, I was looking at my DVDs telling me how to use my camera. What camera is that? It's a Nikon D40. This camera, so reviews tell me, has one of the best UIs of any camera out there. The folks at Nikon have tried hard, and it seems successfully, to make a usable digital SLR. Let's face it, people wade through f-stops (seriously, folks, get rid of this term and replace it with something like depth-of-field, or something more intuitive and useful) and ISOs and zooms. I learned this stuff when I was in junior high or high school. And yet, with the digital revolution, I have to learn about white balancing and SDs vs. Compact Flashes vs. Sony's idiosyncratic MemoryStick.
I suppose I could use the dial-up, but I've become helpless to wireless. I want to open my laptop and go. I want it to connect to the Internet effortlessly. I want downloads that sing. I'd love to say that we live in a country of free Internet, but only pockets exist, and only the hours they are open.
Airports are the place that suffer the most. Most places aren't Portland or Ithaca with their enlightened view of free wireless Internet for all. Portland does one better and has it free in many spots within the city.
It's funny that old school was 15 years ago, before the Web became what it was, before we had real bandwidth. How many people live lives on the Internet now? How many can live without surfing to a reddit or a Digg or their favorite sites? It's a small number, but it grows, and puts a significantly larger number of people in the have-nots who wonder how someone can stare at a computer that long, how someone can derive entertainment from bits flying across the air.
So here I am at Panera, connected for a moment. For no one can explain the Matrix.
You have to see it for yourself.
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