Friday, August 2, 2013

Finding the "Any" Key

I'm a bit of a technophobe, though I've come a long way. Part of it is knowing - or fearing - that the wrong move will cause a catastrophe. Part of it is trying to muddle through by myself rather than with some kind of training. Sometimes it's a simple as having the worst instruction manuals imaginable.

Here's an example of the latter: Nikon. I just bought a new little camera. 16 megapixels, 22x zoom, internal LI battery, all in a package that fits in my hand. Easy to carry, light, and simple to operate... Oh wait. Not so much, yet.

It took me a long time to switch to digital. I loved my little Pentax K1000. Manual everything, highly accessorized, it could do practically everything I asked of it. And for years, digital wasn't even close to acceptable quality. Eventually improvements in capabilities and the high cost of film and processing, coupled with my penchant to take a bazillion pictures, finally pushed me over the edge. First it was a Sony camcorder. Then an HD Sony camcorder. There was, at long last, a cell phone which included camera capability, then a Blackberry with slightly better (5 vs. 3 megapixels) quality and the advantage of being always in my pocket. I graduated to a SLR digital with accessories, but having grown used to the pocket convenience, finally decided to upgrade once again. That big camera bag takes a lot of room and good muscles, frequently turning Paul into my Sherpa. With plans including over-packed car travel, plane travel where size equals extra fees, and with acceptable quality in a tiny package, it was finally time.

The Nikon Coolpix 9500 seemed to fit the bill. So, start learning how to use it before the fall Arizona trip. First step: tear off the back 2/3 of the instruction manual. I will never ever need to know how to be confused in French or Spanish. I can do that well enough in English. Second step: insert battery.

Sounds easy, right? I found the only part of the camera that was the right size and shape to be the battery cover, and it had the right symbol on it. Only... how the heck did it open? No clue of which of the four sides was the hinged part, no clue how it opened. A little discrete tugging, poking, pushing and prying resulted in nothing. Nothing looked like a release. Now, I'm talking as somebody used to inserting and changing batteries, as I always travel with a spare with a charge, and with years now of experience in digital stuff. None of the obvious options produced anything, so, as a last resort, consult the (remaining bit of) manual. Right? Hmmmm.....

No index, so start at page 1 and work through. There's "Taking the Camera Out of the Box. Yep, got that done. List and drawings of parts. Yep, all included. Numbers and names of parts with arrows. Yep, battery slot was where I knew it had to be. Instructions on adding the strap. Already done too. There it was, short and sweet: "Open battery slot cover."

Gee, thanks. I ALREADY GOT THAT PART! How, already?

I put it away for the night. Better to try in the morning. My brain works better then. And sure enough, when I took it up again, I figured it out. Would every step be this slow?

Apparently. Once I figured out how to insert the battery, charging took 3 1/2 hours, according to the manual, and I had to go to work. Another day allowed the date/time inputs in a tiny slot of spare time. An actual picture was taken, and deleted, as I didn't really need to keep a shot of my knees, feet, and TV news in the background just to prove I'd found the right button. A trash can symbol is a trash can symbol everywhere.

I packed the camera to travel with me, in case of spare time at work between runs. (It happens.) An encounter with some absolutely gorgeous flowers led to my taking a few shots - with my Blackberry, since I knew how that worked. I had tried the zoom. Once again, nothing about how it worked, just a referral to the this-is-where-it-is page in the manual, then figuring out how it moved by pushing this way, that. The result was a blur.  A later reference to the manual revealed how to switch to macro. I'll be trying that later. I think I understand, all but the part about the green lights. Maybe when I actually see them....

I also have found out that how I thought the zoom moved wasn't exactly correct, and why it worked for me is now a bit of a mystery. Of course, it only partly worked, zooming in only. Returning to normal position was only accomplished by turning the camera off and on again.

But hey, at least that worked. Obviously, there's more homework for this weekend. I did manage a stop at National Camera for a hard case and a second battery. At least some things are self-explanatory. And now I see how to add GPS data on every picture. Another hour with the menu. And oh hey, there's the bit on the zoom. Never would have thought to look there for the info. But, cool.

I really hate having to relearn technology every couple years. I go way back to when people actually used manual typewriters. Word processors are an improvement, I admit, for somebody who flunked typing class. It was only summer school, fortunately. I am a "key peeker", meaning my top speed never gets above 45 wpm, and includes mistakes. Lots of them. That used to mean typing the whole page over. And over. I love being able to correct stuff with a simple backspace or 300.

Mom, in contrast, typed 60+ wpm error-free, in addition to doing actual shorthand. She was a secretary, in fact the boss's secretary before that got called executive assistant, and drilled into me that I should learn to type (well), because that way I'd always be able to get a job. I hated that thought, never wanting to be stuck behind a typewriter the rest of my life. Luckily I was born at a time when those career roles were beginning to change for women, since I never learned to type well.

But I was able to make the switch over to word processing. Mom couldn't. The "return" key never made up for the carriage return bar, and she couldn't seem to type without waiting for the bell warning you were reaching the end of the line and needed to manually switch down to the next. Coming to the end of the line paralyzed her, waiting for something to happen that never would.

My first word processor was an Atari. I hated DOS, and embraced a software program called Paper Clip from a company called Batteries Not Included. It had a "key" you needed to insert in a slot in order for the program to work, preventing software theft. The disc could be copied. The key couldn't. It was such a good program they advertised that the Atari office staff used it instead of their own software. I still miss it. It could do a couple things modern software still doesn't - or if it does, nobody's showed me. I could rotate text 90 degrees on the page so it would print wide. And it would "move" text so I didn't have to go through copy-paste-delete steps: the deletion of text in the old space was just part of the move. I used it to self-publish three volumes of poetry.

Eventually I upgraded to am Imac, that cute little machine with a dome bottom and a flatscreen on a neck. It's still functioning, and is the house backup computer for Richard when he can't afford to fix his PC. With some confidence gained from the Atari, and a lot of help (translation: I didn't do anything myself) setting it up and demonstrating how it worked, plus some Windows experience on a funky old computer that sat on a pedestal in my car for working, I managed to adapt to this upgrade with minimal effort. New stuff still had (has) to be shown to me, notes written down in the peculiar phrases that make sense to me so I can repeat whatever it was the next day or week, and lots of repetition finally making it smooth.

The basics are down. Email, Google, basic word processing, even blogging I have just fine. I even learned once how to do a spreadsheet, though trying again years later showed me I had no retention. It was handy for a while keeping track of bills vs. paychecks, as the two are on different schedules. Now I just muddle through and hope for the best. I've only missed the property tax payment once, if you count completely spacing it rather than remembering a day late.

I learned somewhat how to edit video into a movie, though the part about getting it onto a DVD still gives me fits. There's a lot of unedited tape to work on in a box. I got a MacBook Pro for my pictures. That's all it does. Never got word processing software installed, never allowed it to go online.

Eventually I picked up a faster lighter laptop, used and cheap. It travels with me, having a sturdy outer shell that served well the student who previously used it. All of those upgrades were easy, once I got the hang of my first Mac.

PCs, on the other hand, are still a process for me. I used one in the car, use one to clerk the auctions. If I'm in familiar territory, I can fake it fairly well. I think it took a year to learn to power on, boot up the auction program, and close out properly. It had just always been done for me when I arrived and after I left.

Cell phones are a similar story. I refused to even consider one until the day I was trapped for a half hour in a freight elevator after most of the people in the building had gone home for the week. The first one was just a portable phone, as far as I was concerned. It was still a learning curve figuring out its voicemail and contacts storage, but basically simple. When it was time to replace it, I eschewed camera and texting options, staying with "just a phone".

For the third phone, I opted for including a camera. I was tired of having no options for capturing something that I wanted to remember while keeping my big camera safely at home rather than kicking around - literally - in the car. Only 3 megapixels of quality, but better than nothing. Of course, a new learning curve, but by then EVERYBODY else knew how they worked and somebody showed me. Good thing because the manual was a piece of garbage. Big surprise. The first piece of spam that was texted to me that I had to pay for prompted me to call my cell company and disable texting. I still had not learned to text out.

When work switched to Blackberries, I acquired my first smart phone. I finally had somebody show me how to text. I tried the manual, but.... You know that story. I learned a new camera, sort of. I know there are icons for a whole lot of other apps on it, but ...well... kinda the same old story. I still find my way around strange places by paper maps or calling somebody with a laptop and MapQuest. I can barely manage it as a phone, since I still maintain 1500 minutes a month on the flip phone. Nobody has its number except for texting, so no problem there, really. I can navigate through the work special app loaded on it since I use that 12+ hours daily, leaving me no time nor inclination to explore further.

And thank goodness it's not a touchscreen! Yes, I have seen those. I'm not completely ignorant. I know they can do a lot of stuff. Anything traveling in my pocket is going to get touched meaninglessly a lot, and I don't trust running a work program on something prone to interpreting a bump. I also observe they get crapped up really fast from fingers. That's a lot of time wiping. But I neither have learned  nor wish to learn how to use one, at least not until forced. I'll stick with my keyboard and mouse off screen, thank you very much.

Go ahead, call me a Luddite. Laugh at someone just last year learning how to text. I don't care. I think I've come a long way, even partially embraced the changes. But now I need to turn off the Blackberry for the weekend. No more work: Hooray! And every time, it makes me smile, a little thought I still just can't resist. Because I have come a long way.

"! Turning Device Off. Press Any Key to Abort."

So which one is the "Any" key?

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