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A digital immigrant.

After much gnashing of teeth, I just bought my first digital tablet, a Kindle Fire HDX. A friend asked why I needed a tablet, and my response was that I don't need one, but I know that's the direction my industry is headed and the train left the station with the introduction of the iPad almost four years ago.

Believe it or not, there was a time when I was pretty much on the cutting edge of digital media. My older brother went to work for Tandy Electronics in Fort Worth in the mid-'70s, when I was just a kid, and he had a very early home computer that I messed around with. I started using a computer in the workplace in 1982, and by 1989 my husband and I were so hooked on word processing that we invested what amounted to 5 percent of our annual income in our first personal computer.

In 1992, when I was stuck at home in the evenings because my toddler went to sleep at 7 p.m. while my husband worked until 10, I personally installed a 1200-baud modem in a pre-Windows "XT" PC and subscribed to an online service called Prodigy. There I met a dozen other working mothers from all over the country who remain among my closest friends and confidants--although, 22 years later, several of them are now retired grandmothers. (How did that happen?) In the mid-'90s, I even created a rudimentary website for my employer, and I'm amazed at how much of my original site organization has survived online for almost two decades.

So I was a successful early adopter of computers and the Internet, but at some point it seems I stopped advancing with technology. I still write a few checks every month. I haven't yet found a cellphone app that I think is worth paying for (although my husband gladly pays for MLB.com At Bat). A year or so ago, my son said, gently, "Mom, when I watch you text, it hurts my heart."

And, until this month, I had not invested in a tablet and probably could have gone along happily for a while longer.

Here's what pushed me over the edge: I listened to a presentation on mobile media by Claus Enevoldsen, a senior vice president with Next Issue Media, which aims to be a one-stop, one-price provider of online magazines--a sort of Netflix for magazines.

Enevoldsen's excellent English is delivered in a Danish accent, which underscored his message: No matter how hard I try, I will never be a "digital native" like my kids, who have never known a day without a PC in their home and who learned to text before they learned to type (or "keyboard")--and much more efficiently.

Even though I have effectively lived in a digital world longer than they have, I will always be a "digital immigrant"--someone who grew up before the digital era and who has had to convert old-school skills into new-age applications. I can use computers and the Internet and cellphones and, now, tablets, but no matter how hard I try, I will never use them exactly the same way that digital natives do. I always use them with what Enevoldsen called "an accent." And with every new technological development that I fail to master, my accent will be more and more pronounced.

The first thing I did with my Kindle Fire was download a book from the Amazon Prime lending library: "Moneyball." (It's a fascinating book with a great message for those of us who must find ways to play against bigger, richer competitors that I should have read years ago--but at least I hadn't already seen the movie.) It was the first e-book I had ever read, and I have to say that I enjoyed the experience. For digital immigrants of a certain age, being able to adjust the type size is a distinct advantage.

When I bought the tablet, I also bought a Bluetooth keyboard because there's no way I'm ever going to type efficiently directly onto a touch screen.

I recently got a text on my cellphone from an unknown number talking about things that meant nothing to me. When I responded with a question, the sender's inadvertently amusing reply reminded me of the deep divide that remains between digital immigrants and digital natives:

"Sorry," he or she texted. "I must have typed a wrong number."

Dialing, my fellow digital immigrants, is a thing of the past.

Arkansas Business welcomes Letters to the Editors. Letters must be signed and writers must include their hometowns and contact information so we can confirm their identity, Letters are subject to editing for clarity, length, spelling and punctuation.

Letters may be mailed to Editor Gwen Moritz, Arkansas Business.114 Scott St., Little Rock, AR 72201: faxed to (501) 375-7933: or e-marled to GMoritz@ABPacom.

Gwen Moritz is editor of Arkansas Business. Email her at GMoritz@ABPG.com.

Gwen Moritz

GMoritz@ABPG.com
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Title Annotation:Editor's Note
Author:Moritz, Gwen
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Feb 24, 2014
Words:829
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