I remember the first time I used a computer. Yes, I belong to the predigital age, an era when dinosaurs roamed the earth and people lived in caves. Maybe it wasn’t that long ago in the hoary past, but I do still own a black body Nikon camera with 35 mm film. I take seriously my antique credentials and flaunt them. You’d be surprised how many folks today have never seen a “real camera,” since they only have one on their phone.
Changing the film on the steps of the Acropolis in Athens, I happened to draw a crowd. You’d think they would be more interested in a building from 2,500 years ago than in a tool from 50 years ago, but technology moves so quickly today, many had never seen a film camera. The tourists saw two archaic sights in one site that day.
My first experience with a computer was as a teacher when I had to input the class grades. Finding the ON button was my first challenge, but after twenty minutes, I discovered it hidden on the back. “If they want us to use it, why not make it easy to turn on?” Perhaps only those with secret gnostic wisdom are allowed access to this strange machine, but we didn’t have the internet of things yet. Openness wasn’t a theme.
Once inside, my 1982 brain could easily make the data entry to fill in the blanks of student names and grades. This was just typing in another format. I took typing in high school because I would need it in college and in business later on.
Over the years, I’ve learned the computer skills for word processing, spreadsheets, blogs, page making, newsletters, bookkeeping, and photoshop. If I needed a new skill, I went out and acquired it. Most of the time, I downloaded the program and began working in it. I learned as I went. Taking a class was too slow or not available. The online tutorial was good enough for me.
I happen to be an early adopter of media because I have confidence in my learning abilities. Since I was a teacher, I teach myself. I figure I can’t mess it up. And if I do, it’s not the end of the world. Besides, I practice frequent “saving.” This means I’m always able to revert to a prior good version of my work. (What? You don’t do this? Maybe you should! You can learn something from us old dinosaurs.)
My local Kroger now has the new Scan Bag Go system. I tried it for the first time a couple of weeks ago and came back for a second go round. I found it easier this time, perhaps because I’d had some practice. Also, my store had been rearranged on my first visit, so I had to travel every aisle to find my usual items.
On my second visit I cut 30 minutes off my original time. I usually take an hour to 90 minutes because I chat with folks. I’m not a task focused shopper as some are. I tend to socialize and offer help to people I meet. It’s part of who I am, and anytime I can help add to the well-being of our community, I’m glad to do it.
The little ray gun is fun to zap the bar codes of the foods I put into my grocery cart. I have my Star Trek fantasy as I put my phaser on stun and immobilize the vegetables before I take them over to the weigh scale. When I shoot the bar code, the scanner tells me to put the broccoli on the scale, it determines the weight and price, asks if I want to pay this amount for it, and I click YES. Then I weigh the next fruit or vegetable the same way. I engage the engines of my starship and take off for another part of the galaxy or my local Kroger.
I have friends who will not ever use this system, since they think real people will lose jobs. The checkout clerks I talked to think they can be used for higher and better purposes, such as pulling groceries for people’s click list orders, helping people in store, stocking, and customer service. My friends who won’t use it are mostly people who don’t like technology or aren’t familiar with technology. They’re also middle aged or older. Younger people see the writing on the wall–they know they need to train for flexibility and change in the world to come.
In the last 40 years computers have changed our lives so much. Once we waited until the newspaper landed on our front porches to hear the news. Now we know in minutes when Twitter blows up with someone’s rant or a school shooting happens. While news can happen instantly, we cannot process it immediately. Our lives cannot heal from the trauma of the pain to which we’re exposed daily.
As we age, one of our tasks is keeping our brains limber by learning new skills. Neuroplasticity is the scientific term used to describe the process of maintaining, repairing, and creating new neural connections in the brain. Keeping to the same old path is a recipe for losing our minds, or dementia. If we want to live with a positive attitude, with our minds intact, adopting new technology as it comes down the pike is one way to train our brains for keeping a healthy outlook on life, even if we cling to our old fashioned cameras.