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Those Darned Computers
Old 01-26-2012, 11:39 AM   #1
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Those Darned Computers

I was going to post this in the "What Did You Do Today" thread but thought that it might possibly deserve it's own special place here

My life over the last few days has been about my computer. As I mentioned in this post on veremchuka's thread, I've been reinstalling everything on it (operating system, applications, the lot.)

Coincidentally, I ran into an older gentleman at the Post Office yesterday who was railing against the system. There is often someone like that at the Post Office! I did feel rather bad for this person though. All he wanted was a rate card. They either didn't have any, or had run out, but the answer he was given was to access the postal rates online. The only problem was that this gentleman doesn't own a computer.

This was the point at which I noticed him. He was loudly asking (to everyone in general and no-one in particular) what was happening to the Post Office. Not really aware of what his particular problem was (he filled me in on that later) but getting the gist of his general beef, I happily yelled back at him, "We're all using the internet, that's what happened!" It turned out that was not the right thing to say to him. He was really upset that he couldn't walk into a Post Office and get a simple postal rate card. He was waving a dollar bill in the air and proclaiming that he'd even pay for it, but he couldn't access it online as he didn't have a computer - and neither did many older people he knew.

There was a fair bit of desperation in his delivery and it really got me thinking. I know that there are ways around the lack of a computer, such as going to a friend's house, or to the public library, but not owning or having easy access to a computer can make life harder to the point where you are effectively shut out of many things. I spend a lot of time on my computer, but I'm not sure if I like where this is all going.

Any thoughts? Are computers undoubtedly a great thing, or are we sliding down some slippery slope of "progress", too far gone to do anything about it now?
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Old 01-26-2012, 11:52 AM   #2
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This reminds me of an incident that happened to me several years back. I was walking to the library when an older gentleman said to me, could I help him start his car (a brand new cadillac). His words were something like, "It's my wife's new car, all these electronics, I don't know how to start this damn thing."

Yes, this computers and electronics is a double edged sword. On one hand amazing (I still remember totally amazed at email, that I could type here, hit the send button and someone countries apart can get my note almost instantaneously), on the other it's overdrive (what next? do away with paperbooks because everyone will someday use a tablet or bookreader?).
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Old 01-26-2012, 11:56 AM   #3
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Any thoughts? Are computers undoubtedly a great thing, or are we sliding down some slippery slope of "progress", too far gone to do anything about it now?
Roll the calendar back 100 years, substitute "automobile" for computers and history repeats itself once again.
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Old 01-26-2012, 11:57 AM   #4
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In the example, not only is a computer needed, but of course also Internet access. FWIW, AFAIK USPS does not have a rate card online either... well they must, but I couldn't find it. For example, try to find a new rate card for "flats" (large envelopes) up to 1 oz. As of the past weekend, USPS had not yet updated their site's postage calculator with the new rates for items shipping Monday, so you couldn't even divine the new rates that way.

As to the general question, I suppose it was also asked about the telephone circa 1920. Yes, even today it's possible to exist without a phone (some say it's better) but doing without is certainly less convenient.
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Old 01-26-2012, 12:02 PM   #5
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I'm sure they could give him a mailing address for a regional USPS office and he could write a letter and mail it to the USPS asking for a rate sheet. Wouldn't be that hard if he is accustomed to doing things the old fashioned way. Or just go to a library or hotel lobby and use the computer there.

I imagine the same issue came up before telephones became prevalent in every household. "What, call a government agency to interact with them? What if I don't have a phone!?!?!?". I imagine this guy didn't have anything better to do and just wanted to rant at the USPS. I understand - going to the post office is never a pleasant experience for me either!

edit to add: hehe cross posted with the other telephone and automobile comments
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Old 01-26-2012, 12:02 PM   #6
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The post office should have a customer terminal available set to USPS.com. They don't, but they should.
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Old 01-26-2012, 12:05 PM   #7
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Any thoughts? Are computers undoubtedly a great thing, or are we sliding down some slippery slope of "progress", too far gone to do anything about it now?
Computers, the internet are great things IMO. Better jump on board, I suspect stationary personal computers will cease to exist in our lifetimes, giving way to smaller, more portable devices entirely (so far we still have both). Imagine what a "phone" will be in 20 or 50 years?

Progress just moves too quickly for some, but that horse left the barn long ago. My MIL still can't operate her VCR, doesn't have a cell phone - she's probably a lot like the poor guy in the Post Office.
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Old 01-26-2012, 12:11 PM   #8
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Any thoughts? Are computers undoubtedly a great thing, or are we sliding down some slippery slope of "progress", too far gone to do anything about it now?
IMOP yes, we're in the middle of a sea change on how we communicate and shop. We'll see how it plays out but I think its significant that my 21 year old daughter considers e-mail too slow. She sends text messages and uses Facebook and twitter to communicate with her peers. She uses e-mail to talk to us old folks.

My father in law is one of those who has missed the computer revolution and at age 90, he's not going to join it. He's far from us so when we visit, we stay at the house for a week or so. Of course he doesn't have internet. Each time it gets a little harder to be cut off from our sources of information for that long.

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Old 01-26-2012, 12:32 PM   #9
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Progress just moves too quickly for some, but that horse left the barn long ago. My MIL still can't operate her VCR, doesn't have a cell phone - she's probably a lot like the poor guy in the Post Office.
Exactly. There are a lot of people out there who just never will own or operate a computer, though they are becoming more rare as each year goes by. Even my mother, who died in 2007 at age 98, had used a computer regularly for 20 years before she passed on. But others at her care facility mostly didn't.

As years go by, we have become more and more dependent on computers and the internet. I do wonder what might happen if the internet were to be shut down (perhaps by terrorists or our country's foes during wartime). For example, all bill payment by automatic bank deduction would stop and one would have to find other methods of payment. After Hurricane Katrina, we still had internet but communications were so patchy that Cox Cable suspended everyone's automatic bill payment including mine. Luckily, I was here so I could just drive over there through the receding floodwaters and pay. If they hadn't had an office in the area that was open and that could take my payments, I guess I would have been out of luck (with mail service temporarily suspended at that time as well).

We tend to become pretty dependent upon anything that works well for us, such as electricity, telephones, cars, and so on. (Imagine the plight of those who were born before automobiles were common, and who never learned to drive). These dependencies are part of living in the 21st century. While our dependencies do allow us to advance as a civilization, they also have caused some concern for some people.
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Old 01-26-2012, 12:34 PM   #10
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We'll see how it plays out but I think its significant that my 21 year old daughter considers e-mail too slow. She sends text messages...
I'm old but I agree with her. Text is my first choice, then phone, then email last (though necessary for larger volumes of content). I also use Twitter daily to follow blogs, magazines, news and local restaurants, though I rarely use it for 2-way communication. I think many in our generation are missing something not taking advantage of Twitter if not Facebook.

I plan to resist becoming the old guy in the Post Office for as long as possible...
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Old 01-26-2012, 12:41 PM   #11
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I'm old but I agree with her. Text is my first choice, then phone, then email last (though necessary for larger volumes of content). I also use Twitter daily to follow blogs, magazines, news and local restaurants, though I rarely use it for 2-way communication. I think many in our generation are missing something not taking advantage of Twitter if not Facebook.

I plan to resist becoming the old guy in the Post Office for as long as possible...
I use Twitter in that way, following news of interest though I have never sent a tweet. Likewise, I don't know who I would text since all my friends are old too, and my daughter knows I don't text. This does make me feel like the old guy in the post office, I admit!
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Old 01-26-2012, 12:43 PM   #12
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Putting on my curmudgeon hat, I only feel a little sympathy for the old guy.

Many times while traveling in different parts of the country, I've easily managed to check email and look for things on the web at local public libraries.

And the bonus is that there will be someone at the library who will gladly show him how to do what he needs to do.
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Old 01-26-2012, 12:45 PM   #13
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For example, all bill payment by automatic bank deduction would stop and one would have to find other methods of payment....
This is what would affect me most. But remember before personal computers and the Internet having to send a blank check with "void" across the front of it to get autopayments in place? And the PITA to stop or change autopayments once they started?

Now we just go online and click on a link and there we are, whether to start autopayments or to pay bills one at a time if we wish. Or to check postage rates vs. UPS vs. Fedex.
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Old 01-26-2012, 12:48 PM   #14
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This is what would affect me most. But remember before personal computers and the Internet having to send a blank check with "void" across the front of it to get autopayments in place? And the PITA to stop or change autopayments once they started?

Now we just go online and click on a link and there we are, whether to start autopayments or to pay bills one at a time if we wish. Or to check postage rates vs. UPS vs. Fedex.
Now that you mention it, I DO remember that. I had completely forgotten. Things have improved quite a bit.
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Old 01-26-2012, 12:52 PM   #15
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We're probably not helping the OP...
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Old 01-26-2012, 12:56 PM   #16
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We're probably not helping the OP...
Was he asking for help?
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Old 01-26-2012, 12:57 PM   #17
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Was he asking for help?
Certainly thought it was implied in the title and text, esp last para.
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Old 01-26-2012, 01:00 PM   #18
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We're probably not helping the OP...
Yes, we can say whatever we like about the old guy in the PO, as he'll never be able to see this!
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Old 01-26-2012, 01:00 PM   #19
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Does he need help? Just press f1.
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Old 01-26-2012, 01:05 PM   #20
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So my mom's computer just crashed. She is 85 and about to load the whole thing up and take it to the Apple store for diagnostics, a fix, or a new machine entirely. I think back to when DW and I dragged my parents into the computer age. (We almost gave up, and thought wine as a gift might be less stressful to all.) They weren't sure they wanted a computer, but now can't live with out one.

I wonder what our kids are going to be dragging us into, in the future. I just hope I will be open to, and be able to mentally handle the challenge that will bring.
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