Tag Archives: technology

Truck keeps me alert … seriously!

I want to tell you a quick story about a motor vehicle my bride and I just purchased. It’s a story about how technology is being deployed to protect human life. I never knew such technology existed.

We purchased a 2022 Ford Ranger pickup from a dealer in McKinney. We ordered it from the factory in Dearborn, Mich. We added a couple of bells and whistles that weren’t part of the truck “package.”

What we did not know existed in the list of the truck’s on-board doo-dads was a system that alerted us that we might need to pull over and rest up before proceeding.

We haven’t taken our truck on too many long-haul trips just yet, but we found out en route to Amarillo recently that when we get too close to the lane on either side of our vehicle that it flashes a message that “suggests” we should pull over. If we keep swerving, then the “suggestion” turns into a direct order. And, yes, our Ranger has a display that shows us whether we are crossing the lane.

Perhaps I need to study these things more carefully or be more alert to what others may know already. I did not know about this technology!

What do I think of this alert system? I like it very much. Because if I am swerving because of fatigue, it tells my wife and me that I need to turn the wheel over to her. She also is smart enough to follow the advice given by our new truck.

Will this technology prevent the macho men among us on the road to do the smart thing, to pull over and to rest up before proceeding? No. It likely won’t. However, since I don’t consider myself to be a macho man, then the warning likely will work wonders for me.

It might prolong my life and enable my much better half and me to continue on this marvelous retirement journey.


Phones make my head spin

Whenever I have to discuss telephone technology with anyone younger than, say, 30 my head starts spinning around like a top … kinda like Linda Blair’s noggin spun around in the “The Exorcist.”

It happened again today. I purchased a new cellular telephone. My old one croaked on me. It wouldn’t hold a charge. So, with my son’s help this weekend I found a juiced-up new phone and today I trudged to the phone store in Princeton to select what we had chosen.

Now, it got dicey when the young woman who I guess is in her late 20s began chattering in technospeak. I told her she might as well speak to me in Martian. My age was obvious to her, so she got it.

I then reminded her to ask her grandparents about the phones they used when they were her age. Her immediate response was, “My grandpa didn’t have a phone.” Well … there you go.

Furthermore, I told my young friend, there was a time when I was a boy that my parents purchased a new telephone for the kitchen wall plug-in that had a “coiled” cord that allowed whoever was talking on the phone to walk away from the wall a little farther; we weren’t restricted by the stiff cord that came with the previous phone. It was a big deal, I told her. She got it!

It’s a different era these days. I won’t call it a “new” era, because cell phones aren’t all that new.

I try to be a relatively hip old guy. At times, though, the language used to navigate through all this high-powered technology flies over my occasionally thick skull. I’m getting better at understanding some of it.

It’s going to take a good while longer for me to obtain total fluency … if that day ever arrives.


Man, this technology thing is mind-blowing

GREENVILLE, Texas — It’s official. My mind is totally blown apart.

I ventured to Greenville today for a story I am going to write for KETR-FM’s website, KETR.org. I won’t divulge what’s going into the story. I merely want to take a moment to tell you that I have been bowled over by high-tech genius.

My visit was with the Greenville Electric Utility System brass. I met with GEUS’s general manager, Alicia Price; with marketing manager Jimmy Dickey; with Internet manager Jason Minter and with Terry Walthall, whose business card describes him as a “Headend Specialist,” which a kind of code for system operations manager … the guy who knows which buttons to push and which wires to connect.

Our visit was informative in the extreme and I look forward to posting my story about Greenville’s cable TV-Internet system on KETR.org next month.

However, my mind was blown as I tried to process all the technological expertise that was being demonstrated.

My session with Price, Dickey and Minter ended with me recalling how it was when I was a youngster, how we were able to watch three whole TV channels. How we had to get up off the floor or out of a chair, walk to the TV set and turn the knob on the front of the set to change the channel. I asked Minter if he remembers TVs that took about a minute to “warm up” as the tubes inside got hot. He quipped about how the “vertical hold” would scroll the image up and down.

I mentioned the rabbit-ear antenna on top of the TV set and how we occasionally had to wrap aluminum foil around the end of the antenna to get a stronger picture.

Then I mentioned how Dad sold TVs and other appliances in the 1950s and how our family acquired one of the first televisions in Portland, Ore. And then I told them about the time color TV came into being and how my sister and I would host “TV watching parties” in our living room with neighbor kids who gathered with us to watch cartoons in color.

I am 70 years of age, but those memories remain fresh in my noggin. Today’s session with the high-tech powerhouses at GEUS only reaffirmed what I knew, which is that we’ve have circled the solar system hundreds of times in our quest — and our discovery — of technical know-how.

It has blown my mind.

Happy Trails, Part 146: On the technology fast track

Someone once said you’re never too old to learn new tricks.

This old guy is learning ’em . . . in a hurry!

My wife and I are purchasing a home in Princeton, Texas. We signed a huge stack of papers this past week. Now comes the technological know-how I am being essentially forced to acquire as we finish the move.

We have a “smart home.” We have opened up an Internet service to the new place. Just today, the Internet provider installed the guts to our Internet wiring.

Then we have this “smart key” business. I’ll try to explain it.

The “master key” was activated to recognize my wife and me. The builder’s representative showed us how to use the front-door key, the back-door key, the garage-door key by using a tiny metal probe we poked into the “smart” portion of the master key.

One more “smart home” feature needs to be installed. It will come from Amazon. A tech will come to the house and will walk us through the setup of the “Alexa” feature that allows us to speak to the house to get it to do certain tasks we will ask of it; things like turning lights on and off.

I try to stay current, but I have to say that this technology is requiring me to learn a language I did not understand. I am happy to report that it is coming to me — a little bit at a time.

Hey, print journalists speak a language of their own to each other. It’s not quite jargon that doctors, lawyers, engineers or astronauts use when they talk among themselves. But, they do speak a unique language.

I am believing now that the computer-wise among us surely speak to each other in a language only they understand.

I am looking at retirement in a whole new context these days. I am glad to be no longer working full time. I also am enjoying — as best I can — the fairly steep learning curve I am climbing while we finish the move into our modest, but so very modern, home.

If this old man can learn something new, then anything is possible!

‘Texting’ becomes second nature … more or less!

I am going to brag just a little.

I’ve been quite dismissive and downright derisive of many aspects of “social media” over the years. Texting is one of those aspects that has drawn my most serious level of scorn. Some members of my family have heard me declare that I cannot say the word “text” in its verb form without adding a certain level of derision in my voice.

Indeed, I pepper this blog with such references when I use the term in that form.

Why the boast? Well, it’s that I am getting fairly proficient these days at texting. I once imposed a six-word limit on messages sent via this medium. I must confess here and now that I routinely go beyond that limit, but not by much.

I do, though, find that I’ve achieved a certain comfort level in communicating in that fashion when I have something of importance I want to say to someone. For instance, I sent a message to a gentleman informing him that my wife and I will be taking our fifth wheel RV on an extended trip soon. This fellow pulls it out of its parking slot in the garage where we store our RV. I needed 12 whole words to convey the message.

Also, I want to stipulate that I will never, not ever, converse with someone using this medium. At my advancing age, I find myself still relying on more conventional methods of conversation, such as picking up the telephone and calling someone. I also have been known to go to someone’s place of employment or even their home to converse with them, face to face. I do know individuals who like to “chat” with someone using their texting device.

No conversational ‘texting’ will be done, promise

I suppose this is my way of acknowledging that I am advancing farther into the 21st century, along with my sons, my daughter-in-law and my grandkids. I hear jokes all the time about how smart others’ pre-school grandkids know more about modern technology than their elders do. My wife and I are rapidly approaching the realm of those who have such technological wunderkinds in their family; little Emma — our 4-year-old granddaughter — is showing the faint first signs of being able to solve technology problems for us when they occur.

As long as I stay within my comfort zone, though, I’ll be all right. I plan to cling tightly to it as I text friends and family members.

Here’s the deal, though: That comfort zone seems to be expanding.

Who knew?

Another year down the tubes … Happy New Year!

Those of us who remember the days when we had telephones with coiled cords and TVs that took forever to turn on have learned to live in whole new world.

We recall waiting with bated breath for the 21st century. My dad was one of them. He looked forward to seeing the year 2000. He didn’t make it, but we had many conversations about that momentous event.

Here we are. Another year is passing into history. And we’re another year close to the end of the second decade of the 21st century.

Yes, it’s true that time accelerates the older you get.

So we’re about to enter 2017. Just three more years an we enter the third decade of this once-new era.

And this conjures up a memory of when we got ready for we called “Y2K.” You remember it, yes?

It seems all so quaint now.

As 1999 drew to a close, I was working for the Amarillo Globe-News. We prepped for the big change in a most fascinating way. The newspaper’s publisher took all those fears about the world coming to an end as we entered the 21st century quite seriously. Perhaps too seriously, as it turned out.

On Dec. 31, 1999, he issued a directive that all our electronics systems were to be shut down by some ridiculous time — hours before we were to go to press. He spoke to us about the potential consequences of failing to be prepared for when the clock struck midnight and we entered a new year beginning with the number “2.”

I’d heard the fears: Nuclear missiles would launch; satellites orbiting the planet would crash to Earth; computer systems would catch fire and/or explode; motor vehicles would stop functioning. All of it.

My boss was so concerned he ordered us to shut down our newsgathering and printing operations … which meant that the Jan. 1, 2000 edition of the Amarillo Globe-News had next to zero breaking news in it. We had a lot of feature material, though.

That was then.

We’ve gotten a good bit more sophisticated about these computer issues.

Time and technology have moved us forward.

I’ll spare you my thoughts about the year that’s about to pass into history’s dust bin. It kinda sucked and I’ve spoken my piece already about that.

But oh, my, has time flown by since our knuckles locked up while we waited for Y2K.

One thing doesn’t change for me, though, even with technology advancing as rapidly as it has done. I always await the new year with a sense of optimism, that the new year will be better than the immediate past year.

So it is that we welcome 2017. We’ve got nowhere to go but up, correct?

In need of an intervention

Touchscreen smartphone with Earth globe

I never — not in a zillion years — thought I would say this, but here goes.

I need an intervention because I left my cell phone at home today while I was at work. I felt oddly disconnected from the world.

Some of you who’ve read this blog for some time know the drill. I had vowed to become the last person on Earth to own a cell phone. I waged a public — and passionate — campaign to that end.

Then I declared victory and purchased my cell phone. My wife bought one, too. Our first phones weren’t of the “smart” variety. They were those flip-top phones that didn’t work very well.

Then we upgraded to smart phones.

I still don’t use many of the functions built into the thing, but I do rely on it for some useful things: e-mail retrieval, reading news services come immediately to mind.

I left the thing at home today. I couldn’t check my e-mail, which arrives regularly during the day. I couldn’t keep up with the news and commentary.

For a good part of the day I was adrift.

I felt oddly out of touch.

Then my work day ended. I went to meet someone for lunch, only the friend I had planned to meet had sent me a Facebook message — which I also can read on my phone — asking if we could reschedule for another day. My friend has a sinus infection and needed to see a doctor.

Had I had my phone with me, I would have known that fact and would have avoided making the trip across town for a lunch date that never materialized.

What have I become? Am I now addicted to this geeky technology?

I need help!

Let humans play and officiate these games

An astonishing event occurred Sunday as I watched a Dallas Cowboys wide receiver get robbed of a near-touchdown after an “official review” of a play near the end zone.

My opposition to instant replay hardened.

How can that be? It’s because we’re surrendering to technology the ability to make split-second decisions in the heat of competition.

Dez Bryant caught a pass from Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and fell toward the end zone. He had possession of the ball. The Green Bay Packers saw it differently, which is understandable, given the intensity of the game at the moment. They called for a review. Then they got the play overturned. Bryant’s catch was ruled an incompletion.

I am not going to argue here whether the Cowboys were robbed.

It’s just that because I remain a bit of a stodgy, old-fashioned kind of guy on some things, I hate that officials who call these games are being second-guessed by technology.

Hey, the game is played by human beings. Last time I looked, we humans can and do make mistakes. Do officials who run football, baseball, basketball and hockey games make mistakes? Sure. What percentage of all the thousands of calls they make during a season are wrong? Oh, maybe a fraction of a fraction of 1 percent? Maybe?

It might be that I don’t have enough of a stake in some of these games to get worked up over whether an official blows a call. Yes, I have my favorite teams. Did I mention I’m rooting huge for my Oregon Ducks tonight in the College Football Playoff championship game against Ohio State?

Whatever. These games belong to human beings. Fans deserve top-quality entertainment. The players deserve to be treated fairly. Coaches deserve respect for the tough job they do.

High-tech gadgets are fine. I’m all for them. I own a few myself and I’m getting used to operating some of them.

However, when it comes to watching athletic events, I prefer to leave the human factor alone.

Let the athletes perform to the best of their ability and let the officials call the game to the best of their ability as well. They get it right almost all the time.

How in this world did we play these games before the arrival of instant replay?