Computers. Huh. What are they good for?

by Carla Schroder

My granny got along fine without computers. I lived to a ripe old age before ever laying hands on a PC. There's a whole analog world out there to explore. As my mom used to say, "Turn that darn thing off and go outside." When I saddle up my horse and hit that lonesome trail, there are no computers. Nor cell phones, nor latte carts, nor shopping mauls, nor nothing. Just clean air, good smells, and peace and quiet.

I live way out in TAEON (the tail end of nowhere.) Out where the majority of citizens still make their living from the land: cattle and sheep ranching, horses, alpacas and llamas, timber, mining, and farming. Most folks don't make a lot of money. Quite a few have never owned a personal computer, and never will. Believe it or not, a sizable number don't even bother with a telephone answering machine. What's the point? When they're home, they'll answer the phone. When they're gone, you can't talk to them anyway.

Folks out here have a way of cutting through the baloney like a guided laser. When I'm discussing computerizing a business, for example, I better be able to answer "how will doing this make me more money, and make running my business easier?" Sometimes the answer is "it won't." Kids still get sent to the public library to do research. You know, where the books are, and the distractions aren't. Sometimes research means talking to old people who lived the history they are studying.

What's the point of this ramble, you may ask? Beats me. Except maybe that computers are not everything, and there's a whole big world out there with lots of fun things to do that have nothing to do with computers. Which might sound odd coming from a certified geek and Linux zealot, but there you are.


2004-09-19 10:38:23
Yesterday, I was at the local town fair which is called the Apple Festival, and it dawned on me how great it was to be off the grid for just a little while. Instead of ringtones and wallpapers, I was listening to the local high school marching band, and looking at the sticky faces of my kids as they sloppily devoured caramel apples and funnel cakes.

At this fair, there were also lots of exhibitors--people who'd sewn quilts and were selling them; people painting pictures of mice and football helmets on kids' cheeks; the local state representative candidate Earl Martin; even a few churches. But, as I was walking up and down the line of exhibitors tents, I paused to watch a guy from one of the churches trying to get his PC's display in a position where the sun wouldn't totally wash out the image, and he was losing this battle. I thought it absurd, that out in this middle-American, sun-shiny smalltown fair, the guy was fighting with his PC, apparently trying to show a Powerpoint presentation. Why did he bring this upon himself?

And suddenly, I was even more glad to be outside walking around with my kids, soaking up the fall sunshine and eating apple pie. Sure, video games and Perl hacks are fun--but my heart is on a bike trek in the woods or a visit to the local fishing hole. The analog world is indeed a great place, and the perspective it gives our work in the digital world is very important.