Southern Man

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fear The Future

Southern Man thinks of himself as technologically sophisticated. He teaches computer science at the graduate level. His duties include the administration of both Windows and UNIX computer labs. When something doesn't work at work - a computer, a projector, whatever - he get called instead of the campus IT service. He owns plenty of high-tech toys. His VCRs have never blinked 12:00 other than briefly after a power outage. He's built dozens and dozens of computers, including the one he's using now. Shoot, back in the day Southern Man even built his own light pen - including acid-etching the required circuit board from a pattern in the magazine - for one of his early TRS-80 computers. And not just entered the accompanying program to operate it, but actually modified that program to make it work better. In Z80 assembly language. At age eighteen. Southern Man's techno-geek roots run deep.

The times, they are a-changin.

Southern Man picked up a cute little
GPS navigation system as a dealer perk after buying his new car. The box sits unopened on the nightstand in his bedroom. Southern Man glares at it when he walks by. He has two other hand-held GPS units. They're in a closet, somewhere.

Southern Man bought a new digital camera a couple of weeks ago, along with a memory card and tripod and other photo-related goodies. It's still in the Wal-Mart bag in the corner. Southern Man avoids even looking in that general direction. Southern Man had already given his older digital camera to his teenage son because he never used it.

Southern Man was given a really cool laser level for Christmas last year. That's something that is right down his alley, as he's always wanting to build things out at The Land and a laser level is a really, really handy tool to have. Southern Man doesn't even know where the unopened box might be.

Well, at least Southern Man is coming to terms with his
new phone. Or not. Sure, he calls and texts on the thing, but the USB cable and software and memory card that came with it remain unopened in their boxes since December. As is the little Ipod Shuffle that Southern Man got as a bonus with the phone.

The conclusion is inescapable. Deep down where it counts, Southern Man has developed a fear of technology.

So Southern Man did some "research" (accomplished by typing "fear of technology" into the
Google Toolbar) and found that people that suffer from technophobia are often characterized by two common symtoms: unable or unwilling to us a computer, and unable or unwilling to withdraw cash from an ATM. Well, there's strikes one and two for Southern Man's thesis: he uses computers all the time and knows the location of every no-fee ATM within a ten-mile radius. So the research continued (by clicking on "next" in the Google search results) and Southern Man found a list of physiological symptoms associated with technophobia:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Assymetrical heartbeat
  • Vomiting and queasiness
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Feelings of dread and trepidation
Well, the last two ring true. The air conditioning in Casa Southern Man isn't worth the expense of running it and Southern Man is sweating like a pig even as he types this. And, yes, there is a little taste of the last entry whenever Southern Man contemplates learning how to use that new GPS or camera. Really. He isn't sure why.

So maybe Southern Man isn't a total technophobe after all. Maybe he does get a little nervous when faced with the task of learning new technology. Maybe he does have a little fear that all this new tech is smarter than he is (which probably began in high school when that old TRS-80 with a whopping 4K of memory whipped his butt at chess on a regular basis) Perhaps it'll just take a little extra will-power to face his fears and set up his new toys and learn how they can make his life just a bit more enjoyable. Which is something that technology has done for him for most of his life.

And then again maybe he's not technophobic at all but just too lazy to break the stuff out and set it up.


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