Ask a Wench about Tech!

Are you a high tech or low tech person?  Do  you enjoy all the bells and whistles of modern technology—or does it make you run for the hills?

Mary Jo here: Because the Word Wench site is transitioning to a new platform and there has been much flailing and some howling behind the scenes, tech has been much on Wenchly minds so this seemed like a good time to talk about it.

Technology, specifically the personal computer, literally changed my life.  I bought a Leading Edge, an early PC, to do copywriting and billing for my small freelance design business.  The Mayhem Consultant showed me how to use word processing–and very shortly after I realized that here was a great tool for writing down the stories in my head because when you fix the typos, they stay fixed!!! Three months later I was offered a contract for Signet Regencies and the rest is history.

Clearly I owe tech a lot, but that said, I’m a tech minimalist.  I love communicating with friends all over the world, my desk top computer is set up just the way I like it and I must admit that I like my iPhone for various reasons, including the ability to take quick pictures, such as this one of Riley the Wrecker and do of his Egyptian pals.

But I loathe upgrades, which usually make things worse, not better.  I have to be dragged, hissing and snapping, into new tech.  I have software that is a couple of decades out of date because I don’t want to waste time and brain space learning something new that I’ll probably like less.  Put me on the island with the Tech Dinos!

From Christina:

OK, I’m going to admit it – I’m a techie dinosaur! New technology makes me twitchy and very grumpy until I’ve managed to grasp the concept. Once I’ve got it, I’m fine with it, but I really dislike having to learn new things and have to write everything down in step-by-step bullet points until it sinks in and becomes second nature. I am in awe of young people who seem to have an innate understanding of everything without even trying very hard. It’s as if they were born knowing how to navigate their way through anything techie, whereas I have to struggle to get the basics.

Luckily, I have two daughters I can ask when I need help, and they are (mostly) very patient with me. If I can’t do something, they’ll either teach me or do it for me. I have found that when buying a new phone or laptop, for example, it’s much easier to just give it to one of them and have them set it up for me. That saves hours of frustration and a lot of swearing. I guess it’s always best to acknowledge one’s limitations! So to answer the question, yes, new technology makes me want to run for the hills, but I’ve learned to ask for help instead. Or, following the advice of my youngest daughter, “just Google it”!

Patricia has much to say!

I am a fry tech person. As we speak, I have just fried another mouse. I have five rather expensive track balls sitting around this office which I have fried at one time or another. I have to ask my IT spouse to resurrect one because. . . have you ever tried to connect a mouse without a mouse on a Windows PC? Ain’t happening. So we keep a wired mouse for moments when my brilliant magnetism kills the hardware. My brand new, solid state laptop is currently producing wavy lines across the screen while I’m trying to edit a dead manuscript and return it to life. Frustration, much? I had to retire my lovely old PC monitor when it did the same thing. And I’ve just replaced my keyboard with an Apple wireless because my beloved Logitech ergonomic keyboard died. Again. And Again. They stack up like trackballs around here.

Living like this, I have no choice but to embrace new tech. It’s not as if I can go out and buy old stuff. But the beautiful new keyboard that lights up in a dark room—has hieroglyphics instead of words. I’m still trying to puzzle out what the happy face means. I’m pretty certain I won’t be happy if I push it. New and improved seems to mean “Let’s cram as much useless junk into this tiny New Thing so Old People can’t use it.”

But Perseverance has always been my middle name. I’ll scream and I’ll fling things, but I Will Win.

Nicola here:

I am not someone who embraces technology with much enthusiasm! I think I’d describe myself as a competent user of technology but the excitement with which some people embrace new devices and upgrades totally baffles me. I like the amazing benefits that technology brings, especially programmes that allow you to dictate a book rather than type it, for example, which is great for those of us who suffer from arthritis. I love the portability of devices such as my iPad and adore taking photographs on my phone. It’s all very neat, convenient and helpful. Email and social media is wonderful for keeping in touch although I do get more excited by a letter or card.

But when one of these amazing devices goes wrong, I’m totally lost. The sense of despair I feel when the book I’ve been writing disappears off the screen… I am incapable of sorting out most things that go wrong with tech and don’t really want to learn how to fix it. So very much a love/hate relationship for me!

Andrea’s Bit:

For me, tech is definitely a two-edged sword. I love how it cuts through the time/effort required in researching for a story or finding a “how-to” on the internet. (That in itself is a wondrous universe of useful information . . . though as is with most things created by mankind, there is a dark side to the light side, which I suppose mirrors our own human nature.) I also love the creativity that tech allows. I have some amazing design programs, and the camera on my cellphone is such a joy to have, as it allows me to capture wonderful moments in Nature, and special memories of family and travel. Connecting on social media also has its plus . .

BUT (yes, ‘BUT’ is in upper case!) when things go amuck, it drives me batty. I’m pretty good at troubleshooting, and feel I comprehend how what I use works. But when the problem goes beyond my capabilities, I’m utterly lost. Updates can be maddening when suddenly all the basic functions change and I have to relearn them. And as for gremlins in the ether, don’t get me started. At times, I want to chuck all the hardware into a very deep lake. But then I take a deep breath and admit that on the whole, it does a lot of positive things. (Especially when my editorial assistant volunteers to handle untangling a problem!)

Susan’s turn:

Technology has never been my favorite thing, long before devices merged into our daily existence. My dad was an IBM engineer, so earlier than most of our friends we had a beast of a computer and access to glowing amber type on a black screen and all the gobbledygook that came with it. I did not become a believer, being more interested in painting, drawing, writing … but I did become a mad typist in high school and soon discovered that The Beast could capture my writing and allow me to make changes without messing with correcting a physical page. Being an impatient sort, that caught my interest. Otherwise I was (and I am) not very curious about the wonders of technology and all the bells and whistles and fiddly things it can do. Now that I’m married to an IT Guy and have three techie-loving sons, I don’t have to think about it much. They make things work and they love playing in that sandbox, while I thank them for fixing things. Win-win.

Yet as much as we all need and rely on computers and devices now–and as much as we appreciate all they add to our lives, which ishuge–they can greatly over complicate tasks sometimes, which can get frustrating. The love and fascination for technology is very individual and depends in part on our learning styles and the way our brains are hardwired, and what we just enjoy. I rely on technical devices as much as anyone, and I can be nimble about noodling through something when I have to. But if all of it shut down tomorrow, I think I could go back to the old ways, to typewriters and paper and pen and let the right brain continue to figure things out. Fact remains, this is part of life, and it streamlines the writing and all else in our lives. It’s even changing the way the brain processes information, and certainly changes our attention span and ability to figure things out. Fact remains, this is part of life.

Anne here.

I suppose I’m in the love-it-hate-it category. I do love the many things that modern technology has given us. I probably wouldn’t be a writer if I didn’t have a computer. I do love writing by hand — I call it my scribble, and the ideas flow fast and well when I’m handwriting. But I can’t imagine all the work it would take to then type it up on a typewriter. For a start I’ve never learned typing, and I make lots of typos, and as well I’m a compulsive editor and fiddle and tweak all the time, which is so much easier on the computer.

And I love the connectivity technology has given us. During the long months of isolation through CoVid, I was able to chat to friends and family and colleagues on Zoom as often as I wanted to. I can share my photos, and “talk” on email or whatever platform I want, and keep in contact with people I hardly ever see in the flesh, no matter where in the world they live. And then there’s music and film and TV at my fingertips. The list goes on. .

But the thing I hate is when I am forced to upgrade something, not because it’s no longer working, but because computers have build-in obsolescence. And when you go to buy the replacement, so many things are different — not necessarily better, just different. Some gung-ho techies have made all sorts of smart, “cute” little tweaks that catch you (me) unawares. And that’s when I get grumpy, as I yell WHY? at the screen.

For instance in my new laptop, I click on the document I want to open and three documents open at once. WHY? Does it think I have forgotten which one I want?  And you don’t even need to buy a new computer or phone to be driven bonkers by fiddly little changes. Programs are constantly upgraded, my iphone gets “upgraded” overnight and suddenly the features I use daily involve a whole new learning curve — and I don’t have a handy child or tech expert on hand to help when I get stuck. I have to google it — and I will say, thank goodness for google, because these days I can’t imagine doing without it.

As Anne says: We all love tech–except when we don’t. <G>

Mary Jo again.  What do you think of all the technology that surrounds us?


21 thoughts on “Ask a Wench about Tech!”

  1. The thing I hate about upgrades is that they often happen automatically without notice and they never come with instructions as to what was changed, what I now can do that I couldn’t before, or what I can’t do the old way but only with the new way – not to mention all the rephrasings and relabeling that I have to learn as well.

    I think the tech industry doesn’t understand that we who live and work in the real world want to use our time working on our own stuff, not figuring out how to do what we used to do easily and quickly in some new way which may or may not be an improvement but requres a huge investment of time to learn.

    Pfui 🙂

  2. I’m a reluctant techy.

    I was a secretary in the 80s when I got my first word processor, and of course, I loved it. And while I was working, I looked forward to learning new programs. They made my working life so much easier.

    Now that I’ retired however, learning new programs and upgrades can be a pain because I am just not as into it. But I’d be lost without my computer. It’s my encyclopedia, my toy (games) and I love those rabbit holes. I was slow to come to love my kindle, but I wouldn’t want to be without it now. And although I have a smart phone, I still prefer my little flip phone. I feel like the smart phone is smarter that I am (smile).

    Although I am a reluctant techy, I know that as a home bound person, I am blessed because these gadgets make my life so much better

    • gadgets do make our lives easier, except when they don’t. I’m pretty sure those old word processors weren’t updated every week, forcing us to hunt for needed keys. But I guess no one hacked them either!

  3. Thank you to all the Wenches for sharing. You can call me a Luddite who is fortunate to be married to a Tech savvy man.

    Mary T, I have a flip phone (but no Smart phone).

  4. Add me to the “I hate upgrades” club. I swear they deliberately hide stuff you need to find. It still ticks me off that it took me so long to figure out what happened to the go-to feature for finding a specific page in a ms., and that upgrade took place ages ago.

  5. I also have a love/hate relationship with tech. I am 83; and worked until I was 80, dealing with upgrades that drove us nuts! I have an IPad, two kindles, a smartphone and a computer. At any time, one or more of those can act up, and my daughter in law in CA can talk me through the fix and off the ledge.

  6. Like everyone else, I love the writing/editing that my computer makes possible, and I love the research it makes possible. Somebody in Oregon wrote a dissertation on a topic I’m researching? I don’t have to travel to Oregon to read it—I can get it online!

    BUT, and it’s a big but, they keep changing things, and you can’t avoid the changes whether you want them or not. Once upon a time, a gazillion years ago, I had Microsoft Word 4 for Mac. It did everything I want, let me make corrections, save different drafts, move things around. Then my computer died, and the new computer required a different version of Word. Every time you upgrade your computer—and you have to because the old one “is no longer supported”—you have to upgrade your applications as well, because the earlier version won’t work and “is no longer supported.” I’m now up to Word version 16.something, and it will do a thousand things I don’t want or use, and I have to scramble around trying to figure out how to do the things I used to do because the old key commands no longer work. (It took me forever to find the pound sign for money.)

    I don’t really want to go back to writing with a quill, but sometimes…

  7. I use a lot of computer software and in most cases upgrades are not compulsary though they are advisable for the security upgrades. For example, I still use WORD 2007. On moving to a Windows 11 computer I installed it from an installation disk and it still works perfectly. I think you can buy the older versions of WORD quite cheaply from Amazon, and cover security aspects with anti-virus software.

    I’m really intrigued to see if the rapid advances in AI will impact the work of fiction authors. I don’t think that it will displace the creativity but could perhaps generate usefull suggestions. Elon Musk in a recent interview with the British prime minister suggested that AI would eliminate the need for anyone to work …. I wonder if he would have included wordwenches …. or maybe writing fiction is more fun than work!!

    I really like the new layout.

    • Quantum, I’m glad you like the new layout. We’re still navigating the changes and figuring out what else need to be done so there is still howling and flailing, but we’ll get there in time…. As for Elon Musk–

  8. I’m definitely in the Luddite category…my sister’s drag me kicking and screaming into various things. My husband has so far refused to upgrade my computer to Windows 11 because he doesn’t want to deal with my trauma and hear my swearing and and being an angry at the world woman for weeks and months on end. Grin.

    Totally agree, tech is great when it works. Most upgrades and new versions tend to be what I call Dis-improvements.

    I always hate getting a new phone because you have to learn so much stuff and they remove so much stuff from one phone version to the next. But I do like my little mini-computer. Though I don’t use it like my sisters – they whip those things out and bing, bang boom… Or a lady at book club this week, she saw a book, she ordered the book (with her phone) and bam…it was on the way to her!

    Good luck with the growing pains of a new platform and program!


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