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When techno wonders finally grow boring

By LEE MAY

Publication: The Day

Published September 02. 2012 4:00AM   Updated September 02. 2012 3:15PM

Every now and then I drag my 1980s-era laptop from the closet and look at it, just to be reminded of how long and how far technology has come and gone.

Even before I tickled the keys on that ol' Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 200 at the Los Angeles Times, I had entered the Brave New World of computing at The Atlanta Constitution in the 1970s - a realm populated with IBM Selectric typewriters, blue table-top computers and skillful typesetters handling hot lead.

Click ahead to now and try to count the computing changes that have taken place during the intervening decades - including the shrinking of gadgets' sizes, even as their functions multiply.

Because my employers were early adopters of technology, I was one by default; at the same time, I loved and still love technology. In some ways, it is the third side of my professional and personal triangle, joining writing and gardening.

While I garden and write without limits, I stop way below the summit of technology's ever-rising mountain of machines. Unlike my wife Lyn, who posted an engagingly impassioned essay - "Loving Technology" - on her Website, I have no interest in joining the iPhone world, even as I watch her play the thing like a violin. Yes, I share information from that incredibly smart machine, but my dumb phone rings my chimes quite enough, thank you.

Like an observer, I've tried to understand how I went from early eager adopter - from that first truly portable laptop (my earlier Model 100 had a smaller screen), through countless computers, satellite, cable, DVR, streaming video via Roku and Netflix, taste-tailored music on Pandora - how I embraced these technological advances and others and now say, "Enough; here's where I stand pat!"

What I think happened was, I saw too many people lost in technology, resulting in their losing touch with nature, other people, their own experiences. How many times I've marveled at people recording a moment instead of being in the moment. The ubiquitous art gallery goer snapping a pic of the priceless painting, the tourist in the public garden flashing the open-mouth smile but never focusing on the breathtaking garden design. And, stunningly, a London Olympics torch runner photographing himself.

All this points to a loss of wonder.

Moments, events, places all get filtered through technological instruments. At 71, I'm old enough to have enjoyed times before those filters. At first, technology advanced at a pace that allowed it to blend with wonder; it became a part of the wonder. I marveled when those huge cell phones of the '80s began shrinking to sizes smaller than a brick. And we boys and girls on the bus marveled too when the Trash 80 (a term of endearment among news correspondents but disliked at Tandy Radio Shack) was replaced by increasingly powerful laptops like my workhorse Toshibas, enabling me to create files larger than 1,500 words without having to delete words before writing more.

Then, seemingly suddenly, this wondrous technology grew exponentially, making it a normal thing now for babies to speed-dial their mothers. And pre-teens travel with more electronic gear than I toted on any news assignment. Taken for granted, all this extraordinary technology becomes ordinary.

Our loss of technological wonder sadly parallels the disappearance of romance. Red, hot, and cool love-song-singing, face-to-face-talking about love and love-making all have faded into quick texts and tweets that lead to the ironically named . . . hook-ups.

Yes, it is possible that some new techno-thing hottie will come along and ring my bell the way the Trash 80 did on our first date. But I doubt it. Unless that hot thing can create as much bliss as the sight and feel and sound of a tree, a stone, a stream.

Lee May writes and gardens in East Haddam.

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