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Thursday, January 17, 2013

"I am late middle-aged, not an idiot!"

Iain Graham writes:

“I am late middle-aged (ok I’m 62), not an idiot!”

This is a phrase I seem to be using more and more frequently, either out loud to bright young things or silently to myself in utter frustration of modern ‘must have’ gadgets.

I am almost starting to believe there is a conspiracy between the companies who produce such items: smartphones, smart televisions, tablets, sat navs and even widening this now to every kitchen ‘white goods’ appliance that seems to have the need to be able to tell the time, require an internet connection, beep annoyingly at regular intervals and have a control panel considerably more complicated than that on Apollo 13!

This conspiracy is aimed at alienating and confusing my generation – and started with the introduction of the home video recorder back in the seventies. How many consumers ever used the full functionality of even that considerably simpler device?  Likewise now, how many people use all the programs on their washing machine, all the buttons on their microwave, every key on their (three!) remote controls for their TV/Blu-Ray/surround sound/satellite system that now inhabits the corner in most people’s living room?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to go back to the ‘good old days’ of black & white TV and fixed-line phones. I love what modern gadgets potentially bring to educate, enlighten and improve our lives, I JUST WANT TO BE ABLE TO USE THEM without feeling I need to enrol as a mature student in a Cambridge University course for advanced physics!  (Other universities are available).

“What do you want?” I hear you cry. “Not a lot” is the answer. First of all, an acceptance and understanding from manufacturers and retailers that my generation is undergoing the biggest growth rate of all age segments. There are more and more of us and we are living longer. To alienate us is to turn your back on a huge market. Secondly, STOP BEING PATRONISING!!  Mobile phones with oversized buttons and a direct line to Help the Aged in the memory is NOT the answer.

Let’s start with the instruction books. A basic fact is, if the device needs an instruction book that makes War and Peace seem like a weekend read, this means the device is too complicated (despite the 18-year-old shop assistant’s assurance that “the man-to-machine interface is entirely intuitive”). Maybe it is to him and his colleagues who form part of a demographic that can still ask “well, who were the Beatles?”  It certainly is not to me and many more, and we are made to feel stupid and dim-witted if we question this. So to avoid this embarrassment we either don’t purchase the device or, worse still, buy it, take it home and worry ourselves that should we make a mistake in trying to use it, we will commit irreversible damage to either the device or our precious data. I was brought up with a simple acronym, KISS, which stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. We could do worse than return to this blissful state.

That’s enough for now, time for my medication and a cup of Ovaltine whilst I try to take the wrapper off my new toothbrush. That, however, is another story.

In future articles I will delve deeper into the problems I see and find as I wrestle with individual devices associated with modern living.

Iain Graham is the regular host of The Fonecast, a weekly look at the major news stories affecting the mobile phone industry. You can find each week’s programmes on iTunes, via RSS or by using the podcast player on this website.
Author: The Fonecast
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