A close, young friend came by for the holidays and looked at my Fujitsu laptop with absolute disgust. He was horrified that I still had it. He asked me why. He asked me with the urgency of someone asking why you would keep a chimpanzee in your house, or attempt acupuncture with safety pins.
I could only shake my head. He wasn’t really interested in an answer of course, no matter how salient. I tried anyway. You know, because it’s an adorable complete laptop with a DVD drive which is useful to play and copy dance videos from 501(c)(3) companies too poor to upgrade their technology. Or because it has a wonderful keyboard without the obnoxious space the chiclet key platforms offer these days (which always slows down my 80 wpm). Or that it’s small enough to fit into my backpack laptop sleeve with no issues and still large enough to have a real screen that requires no squinting or adjustment to see.
He listened to none of this. He saw the computer software working and asked what I was doing, his face deepening further with worry.
“I’m archiving dance videos. I convert them from VHS to DVD first then make mp4’s on the laptop and save them to the external hard drive,” I explained, very proud of myself for the successful upgrades.
He was not. He was appalled. “Why don’t you just send those to a place that does video transfer?”
“Can’t afford it. My way is cheaper. Besides, shipping them runs the risk that they get lost in the mail or that the digital company misplaces them or something. They aren’t films that I purchased, they are videos of mostly dance works that I can’t replace, hence the digitizing.”
“What makes you think you’re better at protecting them than the couriers or the digitizing company?”
“Because the cassettes only have to make it from the bedroom to the guest room where the machine lives,” I said, confused about this departure from common sense. “And as I said before, I can’t afford it a service”
“I will pay for it,” he said, more gunfire than benevolence in his voice. "I will pay for it and replace this junk."
“That’ll work,” I said. “But I’m still not sure what is particularly unevolved about this method. And as for my computer, when I took it in for a busted screen and asked if I should just replace the machine, the expert said not to, that this has an Intel Core i7 processor that is top notch.”
Then he sat down on the bar stool next to mine, kind of the way that M in Casino Royale did before prefacing with her top agent that what she was about to say “might be too difficult for a blunt object to understand.” My whippersnapper's version of this went: “You know how you’re a dancer and if there was anything I needed to know about movement I should just trust you on it? Well, I am an expert on this stuff you’re doing and what I would tell you about this is so far over your head, you should just trust me and let me do this. Let me upgrade all of this.”
It is only because he had volunteered to pay for it—and doesn’t have a fraction of Judi Dench’s shade chops—that I neglected to relegate him to a corner of my house for a time out. Plus, he’s too adorable (most of the time) to throw out the window.
The thing is, it was charming, this kind of love. And I was fascinated at how earnestly he defended what I realized in that second is the secondary religion of his generation: full technological integration for the sake of forward momentum and convenience. And general coolness of course.
I am not a fan. I was mad when the market decided that flip phones were obsolete. For me it was already bad enough that I don’t have an actual receiver for the moments I need to slam a phone down to hang up on somebody who pisses me off (remember that joy, anybody?); now I can’t even have a reasonable facsimile. There was something delicious about the tactility of a blackberry keypad, but the swipe mania has swiped away my options.
Options. There it is. We don’t have any. It scares me that as we move further into the 21st century, the market is not expanding with options but rather diminishing. I must conform to whatever way of life Apple, Sony and the leading droid and computer companies prescribe. Period. It’s not the first time I’ve been given this news. The genius boyfriend of one of my proteges told me in a coffee shop in Seattle last December that he was working on micro-chip-in-body integration. It was my turn to be horrified. He went on to say that I should go ahead and submit to the movement so as not to become a techno-neanderthal, unable to adapt and destined to die off like the other Clan of the Cave Bear hominids (shout out if you’re old enough to know that reference).
Meanwhile, I’m thrilled that he’s willing to pay for my upgrade. But where does that leave the grassroots organizations that are still willing their old technology to hang in there until the miracle of arts funding happens upon them? I explained to someone recently that since manufacturers are moving away from flash drives—at least this seems to be so based on the lack of ports on portable hardware—it becomes harder to interface with companies that still carry data on them. Unless your grassroots constituents have really solid Wifi. Good enough to facilitate high speed internet…
I took a sip of my drink. “Sure, come over and upgrade me anytime,” I said. “I won’t stop you. But I need you to make sure that whatever machine you purchase has a keyboard similar to this one. And a USB port. And…”