The fun and games of the digital age have hit my old husband and myself pretty hard. We own a computer and are in a sense computer literate and can find our way tentatively around the internet and email providing our carrier does not in any way hiccup and send us into oblivion. So we are not complete Luddites.
But nothing makes my blood run colder than to have to lift the phone for “help” from our broadband providers to find their voicemail can’t understand what I am saying. The phone pad is covered in doodles while I wait impatiently for the ultimate human, who then speaks so softly and incoherently that it is a struggle to follow their instructions. Seldom do these efforts solve the problem and the process has to be started all over again only to get “help” from a different expert technician with entirely different ideas as to how the problem must be tackled. No wonder we are both grey and worn out.
Now to make matters worse we are being told our old analogue television is going to fade into the never-never and we must buy either a set top box for conversion or a new digital television. An excursion to the shops asking for advice left us completely drowning in jargon, such as “low definition” as opposed to “high definition”. We were told a “low definition” set top box might not make any difference to the reception; a “high definition” set top box was the necessary tool to give clear reception. Then we “twigged” to the fact that our old TV was not built for “high definition”. Therefore, what was to be gained by buying a “low definition” box to hopefully receive only one or more extra channels?
The large price variances left us wondering. It took some research and reading to find out that LCD stood for “liquid crystal display” which is cheaper to produce than “plasma”. LCD is cheaper to run but plasma gives a clearer picture and is generally at least double in price.
Wait, we said to ourselves, "what if we buy an Integrated High Definition LCD television but it is not made for the digital revolution. More research has not fully explained whether High Definition “HDTV” is in fact a digital television. Our present antenna many not give a satisfactory clear picture with a digital television. And so the complications deepen.
Ultimately, all the cost and hassle of connecting a new digital television may be just the thing to cut us off from any viewing at all. To boot, what can be more boring and senseless than the majority of currently available television programs? What about the internet blurb “The next big buzz - is 3DTV". What is new tech today is old tech tomorrow. What will be marketed next week that will put us back to square one?
I have often wondered how humans communicated and survived before mobile phones were invented and became a cash cow for telecommunication firms. Far from being a rare occurrence is the disturbance of a ringing mobile phone, even at the most sensitive and serious moments in our lives. Added to this is the sight and sound of a woman furiously scratching in her handbag to find the offensive, noisy device and then often rushing out of the room and banging the door behind her. How many times every day are there really emergencies in peoples lives?
If only all those loud mobile conversations were really interesting to all and sundry who are within earshot.
We have never been lovers or users of mobile phones. We bought a mobile in case of emergencies and then forget to carry it, or do not know the necessary phone number at the time we need to make the call. Time flies, resulting in the expiration of the prepaid period.
Many months passed before we again prepaid a six month’s usage fee at the local shopping centre. The receipt carried the simple instructions of how to reactivate the connection. Once the recharger had done its job, I sat down pressed the necessary numbers and got the message “failure”. Thinking I had made a number error, I tried again, the result was “failure”. My husband tried with negative results. I resorted to the internet trying every which way to call up our existing account with the carrier. All I could get were “error messages”. We were stumped.
My husband dialled the carrier’s number on our reliable landline phone. After half an hour’s wait I heard him recounting our sorry tale and was told our SIM card had expired. We could purchase a new card at a particular store for $2. The next call was to that store, the card would cost us $5 but they were out of stock. Next call was to the firm in the shopping mall where we had unsuspectingly prepaid for usage. They could sell us the SIM card, so back we went.
I asked the young attendant to be good enough to place the new card into the mobile for us, he then had to get assistance to get the old card to slide out. I expressed the worry of further trouble and my plea fell on the assistant, Matthew’s sympathetic ear. No worries, he would set up a computerised new account. Guess what, all his efforts also came to nothing but “error”. He turned to the phone and got the usual story “all our operators are busy”. After ten minutes I suggested to my husband that he make use of the time warp and have a haircut.
It took another half an hour before the patient Matthew got through to the carrier to give our details. But this is not the end of story. It would take 24 hours before we could input the receipt number in order to be able to use the phone.
It left me thinking about the speed of telecommunications in this 21st century.
The next day, after following the instructions on the receipt, a voice advised that “you are activated” but did not give the pin number needed to access the internet account. It took more phone calls and wasted time, more instructions, but eventually miracle of all miracles I was able to access “my account” without any six-digit pin which I had been advised would be needed.
Thankfully, for now, peace reigns in our household until the next digital glitch.
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