Latest technology conflicts with old-fashioned lifestyle

To paraphrase a quote from the late political commentator William F. Buckley Jr., I am an old-fashioned person standing athwart new technology yelling “Stop.” In other words, I am an old dog who refuses to learn new tricks.

My hesitancy to embrace electronic progress began about 15 years ago, when I became a full-fledged senior citizen or old geezer. Since then, I have watched the rapid modernization of computers, televisions, smartphones and kitchen appliances. I became mildly bewildered and, in a gut response, dug in my heels. I resisted buying into the new gizmos.

It was not always that way.

In the 1950s, I was the only boy in a high school classroom of girls learning to use the typewriter. In the 1960s, while in graduate school, I was one of the few students to use a computer to analyze survey data. Computer analysis was then considered a cutting edge skill in business and academia, and I was a pioneer.

Years passed, and I kept up with the technical innovations that followed. A word processor replaced a typewriter, and my television set could be programmed to tape record a program on one channel while I watched a show on another.

My first encounter with adverse thinking about technical progress came in a conversation with Vernon Weicht, popular longtime Blair County prothonotary, at the courthouse in Hollidaysburg. Vernon had just announced his intention to retire, at an early age and in a situation in which he could have been re-elected for as long as he wished.

Why, I asked?

“My office is converting to computers with data banks, spreadsheets and such,” he remarked, “and I just don’t want to learn these new systems.”

I now understand his thinking.

My last technological purchases were a cellphone and Internet access. My present cellphone is a old clamshell model that is only used to make and receive calls. I do not twitter, tweet, text or “friend” anyone on Facebook. I use the Internet solely to exchange emails with family and friends and to get the answers to obscure questions like, “How tall is the Washington Monument?”

The computer is my word processor, the instrument on which I write letters.

The ways I take photographs are primitive. I know that smartphones, tablets and iPhones can be used to take both still pictures and videotape. Those images can then be uploaded and transmitted over the Internet. But I still use a disposable camera with 27 exposures that I buy at the local drug store. I even use a Polaroid camera for instant photography.

A microwave is the most advanced appliance in my kitchen. My oven is advertised as self-cleaning, but I have never tried to use that feature. My TVs are all bulky cathode tube models with VHS cassette recording capabilities, none of this modern flat screen with DVD nonsense.

My dial-up access to the Internet is old-fashioned. I still use a telephone line, rather than pay for high-speed access. It takes forever to load, but as I tell my friends, “I’m retired, so I have more time than money.”

By the way, the Washington Monument is 555 feet tall.

Jim Wentz, a retired Naval officer and historian of Blair and Bedford counties, writes a monthly column for the Mirror.