Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 079 Technology– Keeping Up

"The paperless society" – that is how Alvin Toffler referred to the future back around l970 in his famous book, “Future Shock”: paper would become obsolete. He claimed we would watch computer screens and information – like newspapers, magazines, and books would appear on a hand held electronic book; no need for paper. Well, that day is here. The past few weeks we visited our son and family in Anchorage , Alaska . He has a, “Kindle”. It does all of the things Alvin Toffler predicted – just an amazing instrument - especially amazing for eyes that start to burn after reading for very long.

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

One attribute that accompanies many of us into retirement is a reluctance to accept new trends, ideas, or inventions. “I guess I’m just set in my ways”, we often heard. “No, I don’t want any of those new fangled thing-a-ma-jigs”, is another. “I don’t trust those things.” It doesn’t seem to matter what the “thing” is. Some older folks just don’t trust it. “I don’t need it”, they say.

There’s justification for these attitudes some of the time. But, sometimes it is like relegating ourselves to an early death. Sort of like being dead before we die. Just because this stuff didn’t exist when we were kids doesn’t mean that it is useless. I feel very fortunate in that my son became a technophile. He likes to keep up to speed with the electronic world. It isn’t his business, it is just one of his interests. He continues to pull me along on the ride.

The “Kindle” is his latest acquisition. He got it from Amazon. It looks like a leather bound book. It does all of the things Toffler told us about – and then some. The thing that I really liked about it, and the feature that can really help retired people, is the ability to increase the size of the font. I tried reading after ten o’clock at night on it. I can never do that – my old eyes just start to burn when I read late at night. Well, on the Kindle I read for an hour and my eyes were not burning nor were they tired. It was like magic. It isn’t lit like a computer screen but in some other way. The light shines down and not into your eyes.  And then there is the font size. If you would like bigger print it is just a click away. Bingo! It becomes a little easier to read instantly. What is that worth?

Since you are listening to this program – a podcast – I assume you make an attempt to keep up with technological changes. The thing is – just when you think you have caught up, here comes another “thing”. Since returning from Alaska we have been in conversation with several friends about our trip. We talk about, “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band”. Few people of our generation are familiar with them. But I’ll tell you that I have never seen anything quite so amazing. Here is an interactive computer “game” I guess you would call it. My son, his wife, and their two children would pick up instruments: lead guitar, base guitar, drums and microphone and then the music began. Hours each night they would stand in front of the screen and sway to the rhythm. I have never seen a family activity that was more interactive and fun. They each have their skills tested to the limits and yet cooperated in a group effort that produces cheers and adulation from the "electronic" fans. It is hard to explain, but it is technology that really brings the family together. It operates through an Xbox and a TV screen. I don’t know how to operate it but it sure looks like fun.  Of course, it will probably be outdated by the time you hear this podcast.

Then there is the "Sonos" player for music. That was a birthday gift for my 65th birthday. It is a music system for the house that I thoroughly enjoy on a daily basis. Then there is “Netflix” that brings movies via the mail into the house like I could never have imagined. And my latest gift was the addition of a "Roku" which allows me to stream instantly movies without using the mail at all. Of course there is “Vonage” that runs our phone through the computer. And a “quick cam” that lets us see our grandchildren when we have a telephone conversation. Then there is the laptop that accompanies me to coffee shops on most days. I mention these things just to give you an idea of a life that has it’s share of  “electronics”.

It does require some “keeping up”. Even these podcasts required a certain amount of learning to operate certain sound production programs and machines. I guess I could forget all of these things and sit back with my radio and hook up a television, but what a different life it would be. I’m not saying it would be better or worse, but it would certainly be different.

Some new technologies seemed designed for we retired folks. The “Kindle” is one. No, I don’t have one yet. But, I’ll bet soon. I mean, imagine, the New York Times in big print each morning waiting for you – and you don’t have to feel like a major pollution machine when you throw it away each day. And a subscription to the New York Times Reader only cost $15.00 per month. That sounds good to me; cheaper than a hard copy. Then there are all of the best sellers. One click and you can have the first chapter of most any book for free. If you like it, in one minute the total book can be downloaded to your Kindle for about a third of the price of an, “old fashioned” print and paper book. And think of all the trees you will save. I can’t wait for Father’s Day, my birthday, or some big windfall. The Kindle is at the top of my list.  My eyes are going to love it.  

This is Retirement Talk.


P.S. This whole thing sounds like an advertisement. It isn’t. I was just really impressed by the Kindle.




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