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Luddite

by Bailey Herrington

Luddite: “The Luddites were a secret oath-based organization of English textile workers in the 19th century, a radical faction which destroyed textile machinery as a form of protest. The group are believed to have taken their name from Ned Ludd, a weaver from Anstey, near Leicester.” Wikipedia

Derogatory: a person opposed to new technology or ways of working.

It happened at a display of early to mid-20th century office equipment in a museum. A young boy, about 7 years old, stood looking at an 1940s Underwood Typewriter. He asked his mother what it was. She replied that it wrote letters, articles, stories much like the wordprocessor on his computer. The boy peered at the bulky machine, front and back. “Where do you turn it on?” he wanted to know.

I didn’t laugh. I remember asking someone to show me where the on-off switch was on my office computer. I didn’t laugh because most likely he was well-versed in JavaScript, Python, and C++ and therefore could tell his computer how to perform certain tasks. I have difficulty formatting text on Google Docs.

It’s not that I’m opposed to new technology. It’s a case of ignorance. The other day I was standing in the checkout line at B___ B__ buying refill erasers for my #2 pencils. The young woman asked if I had a Nest Hub, so I gave her my home address. She mentioned that Alexa could communicate with Cortana. I thought that was friendly of her to share the news about her girl friends, but I told her I didn’t know either Alexa or Cortana.

I have learned not to ask questions of a communications technology expert. I was browsing the selection of computers in another store. One of the models featured something called a Linux Kernel. So I asked a teenager who also was browsing. “Excuse me,” I said, “What is a kernel?” And the kid replied, “The kernel is a computer program that has control over the whole operating system.” “Of course. How stupid of me to forget.” Then he said, “The kernel’s interface is a low-level abstraction layer. When a process requests a service to the kernel, it must invoke a system call, usually through a wrapper function that is exposed to userspace applications by system libraries which embed the assembly code for entering the kernel after loading the CPU registers with the syscall number and its parameters.” I was glad I asked.

A friend told me he will watch the Super Bowl on his oh-so-smart phone while making bread in his Instant Pot. (I hope Instant Bread tastes better than Instant Coffee). I admit that my smart phone has the capability to do tasks that a few years ago would have required a clunky desk top adding machine, a 35mm camera, dictaphone, photo album, flashlight with two C batteries, typewriter, a portable TV and radio, daily newspapers, wall calendar, mimeograph machine, a watch, a deck of cards, various board games, a dictionary, thesaurus, a good-size reference library, and a Rolodex.

I must say that back in the days of Bell Telephone, I never lost the heavy black thing which sat on my desk and was tethered by a thick cord to something inside the wall. I never had to look for it in the sofa cushions, or in a remote area of the desert. I never dropped it in the toilet. The black dial thing didn’t require charging every night. No conversation ever was interrupted because I or the other person had gone into a tunnel or moved to a ‘dead spot’ in the house. Yes, there were those times when I got a busy signal, but I merely called back later without leaving a rambling self-conscious voice message.

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not a Luddite. Unlike Ned Ludd, I have never smashed a knitting machine or failed to “set my needles straight” as his father asked Ned to do. I have no wish to return to those “good old days of yesteryear” when you had to shovel coal into the furnace to keep the house sort of warm in winter, or make ice cubes in trays, or manually defrost the refrigerator. I don’t miss stringing up clotheslines in the winds of early Spring or Winter, or risk squashed fingers in the wringer on the old washing machine, or lug a large clothes basket full of heavy wet clothing to the back yard when mother asked me to help. I don’t miss washing the outside of second floor windows by sitting on the windowsill with the lower window sash pinning my thighs to prevent me from toppling backwards. These were just a few of the difficult and dangerous chores women did in the 1950s and previous decades of the 20th Century.

Now if someone could invent a device to rid the world of stupid, that would be stupe-end-ous.

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