Ability to program VCR sold separately

A View Askew

Posted: Sunday, May 27, 2007

I’ve had cause recently to utter the standard refrain that is an unavoidable part of dealing with any form of electronics.

Say it with me, now:

“This should work ... .”

But, of course, it doesn’t.

Sometimes I think our giant, squishy people brains are more trouble than they’re worth. Someone, somewhere along the line was smart enough to invent cell phones, personal data assistants, BlackBerries and all the other gizmos that make it possible — and apparently mandatory — to go to the grocery store without a clue what you’re supposed to buy, so you can wander the aisles ramming things with your cart as you call up the shopping list, or have one of these cell phone conversations:

“Hello? Yeah, did you say white bread or wheat bread?”

“Seven grain or twelve?”

“Oh, wait, this says whole grain, is that better?”

“I don’t know, I’ve been kind of bound up lately ... .”

Like the rest of us need to know your bread preference, sir, much less the state of your digestive tract.

But just because we share the same species as the techno geeks who come up with this stuff, doesn’t mean we share the ability to operate it.

People are kind of like cars, in that respect. Opposable thumbs and an uncontrollable desire to pop bubble wrap come standard, but cup holders and an aptitude for electronics are extra.

My parents apparently didn’t upgrade to the technologically inclined package when they had me. Not only am I not particularly good at operating technology, I’m not even that interested in owning it. I have no cell phone, no PDA, no BlackBerry, no laptop, no GPS unit. I’m wireless in the sense that I own few things that require connections. Bluetooth in my house only exists when I eat raspberry-flavored popsicles.

I have a computer, and it’s actually fairly updated, but only because my mom overhauls it every time she comes to visit. Her parents apparently did spring for the techo-savvy package, although they passed on the option that allows you to remember where you put your pen/keys/glasses/whatever else you had in your hand two second ago.

My mom’s also the reason I have an iPod. She jumped on the iPod revolution right out of the gate, with version 1.clunky, which I inherited when she upgraded to a new model.

I haven’t filled up a fraction of the storage allowed on my iPod, yet the entire capacity is only a fraction of what’s available with the newer models — even though the physical size of mine is twice as big as what’s on the market now. The new ones are approaching the size of a package of gum, whereas mine more closely resembles a deck of cards.

Remember those? They once were the standard manual method of wasting time and money before computer Solitaire and online poker were invented.

A month or so ago I had a new piece of technology forced into my life when GCI decided for some reason (perhaps the extra charges a month?) that everybody had to upgrade to a digital cable box. If you didn’t get one your TV channels disappeared, one by one, until all you were left with was C-SPAN2 and “Judge Judy” repeats.

Oh, the horror.

So I got the box, and now I have three remotes to keep track of, much less figure out how to use. It used to only be a minor programming catastrophe when the cat stepped on a remote. Now it can result in hours of scrambled Cartoon Network shows (Why can’t she ever change the channel to something I don’t mind watching?) until I get it fixed.

The biggest battle has been trying to figure out how to record something on TV when I’m not there to push the appropriate button. I get cable for three shows I am admittedly addicted to, one of which is on while I’m at work. It used to be a simple maneuver on my combo DVD/VCR player (thanks again to Mom). But now there’s an extra box, cords and remote in the mix. Whenever I’ve tried I’ve ended up with hours of recorded static.

It’s a frustrating experience. I read the directions. I think I hooked everything up right. I’ve attempted to appease the technology gods by performing the programming ritual of incanting the steps out loud, solemnly intoning with the magic phrase at the end:

“This plugs in here; that gets set to channel 3, and this gets turned on there. OK, this should work ... .”

But, as previously noted, it doesn’t.

So I’ve done the only thing a large-brain-toting homo sapien can do in such a situation: I’ve decided I don’t really like that show much anyway.

Jenny Neyman is the city editor at the Clarion. She can be reached at jennifer.neyman@peninsulaclarion.com.

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