Obsolete Technology

At my first real job at a tech consulting company in Germany, my boss handed me six boxes of software to install, along with their manuals, and said, “You know what you’re doing, right?” Like I was going to admit the truth and get sent back to America; I just nodded and started installing. That trial by fire eradicated any sense that technology is mysterious or that I’m going to break it by pressing the wrong button. That’s why I’ve always been the person in the house who is called upon to defrag the hard drive, figure out why the printer is stalled, and format Excel tables.

However, I can see that my reign as Tech Support Queen is coming to a rapid end. In a cycle repeated endlessly, across all disciplines, the old gets replaced by the new. I am not even being replaced by the 14 year old, who is herself very tech savvy. It’s the 11 year old who is our self appointed new Geek.

My mom has never loved computers but during her visit last week we talked her into getting an eReader – her lifelong love of reading being the one thing that we thought might get her on board with modern technology. The youngest daughter took it upon herself to set up a self-paced instructional module called “How to Be Moderately TechieTM” for Grandma. It culminated with a written test showing photos of various devices whose primary function had to be chosen from a multiple choice list (good luck with the iPhone answer.)

There was also a long list of desired search results, for which Grandma had to write down the proper search phrase she might use to elicit them.

Thus began the biggest “Who’s On First?” debacle this house has ever seen, with the granddaughter saying, “Ok, how old is Lea Michele? What phrase would you use to look that up on Google?” and my mom saying, “She’s 20. I just read it in Parade Magazine.” My daughter would sigh heavily and ask again, and my mother would just as firmly say, “I know she’s 20 so I don’t have to look it up.” On to the next question: “What would you search for if you wanted to know the name of Madonna’s latest song?” “Oh, that’s easy. It was during the Super Bowl. She was wearing some sort of gladiator costume.” It was like listening to two weary travelers from far distant lands meet at a crossroads and try to provide a helpful weather report, each in in her own tongue.

The child’s particular expertise is AT&T U-verse and the operation of our one television. I believe it’s related to her ardent love for things that appear on its screen, including but not limited to Dance Moms; if there is troubleshooting to be done, she materializes magically, grabs the three remotes it takes to operate our TV/DVR/VCR, and juggles them like a circus pro. Her ways are inscrutable, but she’s never yet been defeated.

Last Sunday afternoon, though, I thought she’d met her match. I got the first tech support call, from my husband and father who were hoping to watch the Pebble Beach golf tournament. Neither my regular tricks nor my advanced hacks worked, and I ended up on the phone with AT&T support, scheduling a repair visit for Monday morning. So much for the Grammies, and worse, as I announced right before dinner, so much for Downton Abbey.

Downton Abbey, which runs until 10 pm, ┬áprovides the only exception to the 9 pm bedtime of our nascent tech guru, so she was off to the races. From the kitchen we could hear her talking to the TV; it was definitely taking her longer than usual to do her magic. My husband finally went down to provide moral support, which is when the bickering started. Dad clearly was not on board with whatever approach his daughter was taking, and she was just as clearly sure she was right. About ten minutes later we finally heard the telltale “Got it!” and the sounds of voices coming from the tv.

My husband came upstairs, shaking his head. “Do you want to know how she fixed it, in case it happens again?” he asked.

“First, put the movie ‘Elf’ into the VCR, and watch it for seven minutes. No other movie, and no less than seven minutes. Then, and only then, press the ‘Exit to TV’ button on the DVR remote control. That’ll reset the whole system.” He went on demonstrate her unique swish and point technique for operating the remote, which looks suspiciously like Hermione Granger schooling Ron Weasley on Wingardium Leviosa during Harry Potter 1.

Our daughter joined us, looking quite pleased with herself. “But Dad,” she pointed out, “it worked.”

The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.

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  1. says

    Mysterious indeed. I wonder if the alchemy would work over at our place, because we also have the 3 remote dealio. Unlike you, I was never employed by a German tech firm, so I’m at a huge loss. Last night my 6 year old showed me how to solve a computer issue I’d been cursing about for 30 minutes, and she did it while rubbing her eyes and squinting into the light, since it was two hours past her bedtime and she’d come down for cough medicine. So I’m worse than a sick, half-asleep 1st grader at this stuff. Also: loved the Who’s on First with your mom and daughter.

  2. says

    Ah, the onward march of the current technology. If you bought something 10 minutes ago there is a newer, faster smarter option on it’s way to Best Buy as I type.

    Funny about your kid’s savvy of Uverse. I thought I was the guru of all that is AT&T technology. I don’t own the DVD of Elf so therefore, I must not be in total command of the situation. As it turns out my biggest problem with Uverse is my neighbors dog that has dug up the cable 3 different times and chewed it through and through. No cable no Uverse. Everything short of that can be cured by shutting down the gateway waiting 10 seconds, rebooting all TVs and saying a quick prayer to the Internet gods. If Elf doesn’t do the trick next time, give it a try. Oh, and if that fails shoot your neighbors dog.

  3. Beth says

    We have a universal remote that somehow goes wonky. I text my son to call me so he can run me through the reprogramming. In his mind he sees it all, “hit the third button down at the right, hit the middle one on the left, scroll up two hit the “yes” hit the previous button, hit the tv then cable button and voila it works. Just this morning I was yelling help with the cable box via email. He is in Spain for the semester but called me on his google phone and I’m back in business. The inner runnings of technology is hard wired into their brain……clearly nurture versus nature, but what about the next generation??

  4. says

    Oh, good Lord. I can relate. We have an 11-year-old AV Club president here, too. My husband and I both bow to him on all matters technological.

    It’s quite humiliating.

    Nevertheless, when the day comes, we’re going to have to go off to college with him or risk never being able to view another movie on our “entertainment system” again.



  5. Floribunda says

    The ginge is my tech support – I feel safe operating the TV as long as he’s around to remedy any situation I’ve created by pressing the wrong buttons in a frenzy of confusion; conversely, I don’t always love the “fun” little stuff he does to rearrange things on my computer, even though I know he can right it immediately with a simple drag and click.
    As for Blondie, he’s my go-to Wii IT. Helpful when I’m in the mood for “Just Dance” and can’t seem to get the damn thing going…

  6. Floribunda says

    Oh, and you can thank me later for that Elf DVD. Had no idea it would provide more than entertainment when I bought it…the multitasker of holiday movies.

  7. Tiffany K. says

    If my daughters weren’t here, I would not be able to restart the t.v., play Just Dance on the X-Box, or watch a DVD. Suffice it to say I do not watch television during school hours.

  8. Chris says

    So the key question that no one is asking “What happens in the first 7 minutes of Elf?” My guess is there’s some favorite scene that ends at 6:59. Does he walk thru the candy cane forest? Get his raccoon hug? I think that’s probably for the 7 minute mark reason.


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