technology

A speaker or two

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“We need this!” I said, my eyes dreamily glazing over the shiny black rectangular contours of the Home Theatre system that was on display. “I don’t think so. Plus we should look online for better deals.” exclaimed my wife, tugging at my hand, trying to steer me away from the electronic wonderland that I had stumbled upon. I tried to resist, but followers of my blog will know that my wife knows Karate and can be rather persuasive with her ‘holds’.

“You know what?” I said, desperately racking my brains for an apt sentence that would swing the game in my favour, “Remember how you’ve always complained that we don’t have good speakers at home. And that the one that we have, has wires running all over the place?"

She stopped in her tracks, and I took this as a signal to go on. “Well, if we buy this, we can stream music directly from our iPod to OUR (yes, I used the word OUR) home-theatre system, without the need for messy wires. And it has seven wireless speakers too. Just imagine!”. I smiled as I delivered the sentence that I knew would convince her.

We both stood there for a few minutes - me trying to visualise this state-of-the-art home theatre system at home and watching my favourite movies in complete surround sound and digital sound, my wife thinking about all the music she could play loudly on the new system.

Half-an-hour later, we walked out of the store, with a receipt for a hefty amount and our hearts filled with the excitement of having ticked off something from my technology bucket list and the joy of times to come.

A few days later,

My wife and I stared lovingly at the set of speakers that we had wall-mounted. As a self-proclaimed technical expert, I had opted to do all the installation myself and apart from a few minor blisters and bruises, I had managed to get everything done. Bursting with excitement, I called out to my wife and sat her down right in the middle of the sofa, in the spot where I had decided would be acoustically perfect.

And then I switched on the system and attempted to connect my iPod ‘wirelessly’ to the home theatre. Now, I am a geek and a proud one at that. As the seconds soon transformed into minutes and then longer minutes, I heard my wife clear her throat. I looked over my shoulder at her. With a smile on her face, she held out the ‘How-To’ guide that had been included in the box.

“No!” I exclaimed, turning back and fervently trying to make the connection work. Behind me, I could hear my wife typing something on her phone. Trying to ignore her, I restarted both the system and my iPod. After another 30 minutes had passed with no visible results, my wife tapped me on my shoulder. “I think you should call the experts.” she stated, as I turned around.

“Oh! And before I forget, here is something.” she said, handing me her phone. She had opened up a search site in her browser and had entered the search string - Speakers under Rs. 1000. “We should have just done this, you know. You and your fancy gadgets!” she exclaimed with a smirk on her face, as she walked away.

I merely nodded, as I always did.


 

This is a sponsored post, but the opinions and views are mine.

Photo by Freedigitalphotos.net/Stuart Miles

Singletons - Meet your "invisible" partner

Before I get into this, I need to let you in on a little secret. Well, not exactly a secret, more like, there’s something you need to know about me. No, I’m not crazy…well, not yet anyway.  I’m an ardent fan of utilising technology in every day life, with a view to simplifying certain processes and speeding certain things up. But every now and then, I stumble across certain new apps, which to be honest, stump me. This is one such one.

Let me start with a bit of a preface. We all know that there are a lot of socio-cultural differences between the so-called Western world and their Asian counterparts. However there is one question that transcends boundaries, countries , religion, caste, creed and everything else. And that is, “Are you seeing anyone? / Are you still single?” Though previously unheard in Asia, particularly in India, these days it’s no longer considered taboo to have had a girlfriend / boyfriend (s) prior to getting married. And if you’re of marriageable age, then ideally you are expected to be in a serious relationship, if not married already.

Before we get into a heated debate, I am in no way saying that a marriage is the be all or end all of a relationship. Marriage is sometimes just a strengthening of the bond, sometimes its just some paperwork, other times it’s due to social compulsion. I still maintain my stand on the topic - Marriage, it’s not for every one. If you feel the need or want for it, then do it. If not, live together. Anyway, I digress.
Come to think of it, let’s maybe think of this as a story. We have a hero, say, Matt. Matt’s been single for a while. And he likes to mingle. Which is absolutely perfect. But at every  social gathering he goes to, all the “nosy Toms” want to know just one thing - “Why are you still single?”. Now, though it’s absolutely none of their business, Matt decides to take the polite approach and cooks up a story about his girlfriend, who he has been seeing for a while; about how it was unfortunate that she had to go overseas on a business trip; about how he misses her and he wishes she was there. But the problem is that the the nosy nosersons are quite “socially” active these days - which means unlike older times, they are more likely to spy on Matt’s social life through the already well-established “spy-networks” of Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and the likes.
Would you like an "invisible" partner?
Would you like an "invisible" partner? - Image courtesy www.invisiblegirlfriend.com

Which means that Matt now needs to cover his tracks. So in true James Bond style, Matt decides to use technology to help him. Unfortunately Matt is neither an engineer nor is that tech-savvy. Step in the “Invisible Girlfriend” app. Touted to be man’s next best invention since sliced bread (by the makers of course), the app can provide a range of relationship "tokens" to help keep the conversation going, and help Matt escape those judgemental looks from friends and family. So yes, coming back to the relationship prompts - the app provides a range of options from SMSes and  “emergency interaction” to what is now considered the “true sign of a relationship” - a Facebook relationship status change :) All Matt needs to decide is what subscription he needs to go for.

There’s the :

a. Just Talking - SMSes, automated calls and some gifts for $9.99 per month

b. Getting Serious  - Just talking plus Facebook relationship changes and real voicemails and girls all for a paltry $29.99 per month

c. Almost Engaged - This offers all the advantages of Getting Serious plus “custom girlfriend characterisation” and live phone calls, all for just $49.99. Matt can even pick a "girlfriend" from the company’s “extensive library”

Now, is that WOW or what? (holding up a sarcasm board)

So that’s that then; for the millions of Matts out there in the world who want to enjoy their single life whilst “maintaining a potentially infallible story-line”,  well, they have the invisible girlfriend app, if they can afford it. Alternatively, they could just do what the rest of us normal people do and get in a real relationship or better yet, just ask them to mind their own business.

Frankly, I’m not quite sure what the makers of the app were thinking when they came up with this ridiculous notion. Maybe it was the result of one drunken night and lots of "creative" single men.

Here’s the link to the website, if you are keen to explore the options. Bear in mind that they’ve not gone live yet - wonder why :)

Our “Tech-Savvy” Kids

“Go to your room, and think about what you did!” Though my neighbour spoke in a fairly monotonous voice, I could sense the firmness in her words. So could her seven-year old son. Giving her an angry stare, worthy of Hannibal Lecter, he picks his PSP, storms off into his room, and slams the door shut. The whole flat shudders slightly, and so does my teacup, which politely sat on the coffee table. Not quite sure how to respond, I do the best possible thing – I pick up the floral teacup and sip on some heavenly masala chai.

Now in the interest of respecting their privacy, I’m not going to divulge what led to this “battle”. Nevertheless I will say this – The kid was in the wrong, at least in my opinion. But then, people say that the behavior of kids are usually a reflection of their upbringing. Anyway, this incident got me thinking – Are kids really that different now, than say the 70’s-80’s, when most of us would have been in their shoes?

Image courtesy Freedigitalphotos.net /Clare Bloomfield

Not much has changed biologically, I suppose. Kids still like to run freely and jump about. They still love to go higher and higher on the set of swings in the playground. They still get a kick out of playing games such as hide & seek and running & catching with their friends. They are still impressed with the tall giraffes at the zoo and the playful dolphins at the Water Kingdom. So, the kids of the 21st century all seem to have been essentially “wired” in the same way as us. So what’s changed then?

The answer has to be technology. Yes I know, our kids are probably more adept at using newer technology than we would have been at the same age. The difference is the influence of technology in every day life. And that’s what is changing our kids and subsequently our parenting style. Confused? Let’s take a look at few examples:

Communicating with friends

Image Courtesy freedigitalphotos.net/supakitmod

Back in the day, we spoke face to face. We wrote letters and notes. When our friend’s parents answered the phone, we respectfully addressed them and politely enquired about our friends. We spoke in complete sentences. Today, technology has completely turned this art of communication on its head. With most kids having some form of portable communication device – i.e. smartphone /iPod/iPad, they don’t find the need to have to speak at all.

Research has shown the average number of phone calls have dropped drastically while the numbers of text messages and Instant Messages have increased almost three fold. Even if they need to speak to each other, the good old fashioned “Let’s meet at my place, my mom has made cookies” has been replaced by “Let’s FaceTime/Skype”. Why, even a good oldfangled “Hi” has been replaced by the inevitable “Poke”.

Language

Image courtesy Google image search

Do I see a few raised eyebrows? Sure, technology has ironed out a lot of monotonous creases. No longer do we have to mull over the pages of a dictionary to check the right spelling. And when in doubt, we always have Wikipedia and Google (and others) to correct us. But my concern lies elsewhere. Most school-going kids these days are unable to string together a whole sentence without grammatical error. Strangely, they could probably convey the same sentence in less than 140 characters via an SMS, Twitter or Facebook status update. With auto-correct and online dictionaries, kids of today are much more reliant on technology for writing (or maybe I should say typing) than we used to be. Spellings have just become plain awful.

“Digital Dementia”

Image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net/africa

Kids, particularly the teenage groups, are showing a decreased ability of memory retention. From simple things such as phone numbers and special dates such as birthdays and other important occasions, kids (and adults too) are becoming increasingly reliant on their “faithful, on-hand technology” such as smartphones, laptops and tablets which often serve as memory aids or in some cases, their personal assistant (Yes, Apple – I’m talking about Siri). Whilst the act of utilizing technology to remember important occasions is not something to be entirely frowned upon, scientific research has shown time and time again, that those who rely almost completely on technology suffer deterioration in their cognitive abilities. Even Google co-founder Larry Page had mentioned in an article that research showed that our memory retained much lesser information when reading from a screen as opposed to reading the same thing from a physical book. Need I say more?

Frustration, Anger & Patience (or rather lack of)

Image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net/Teerapun

When we were young, the terms frustration and short-tempered were often used to describe the teenage years, and with good reason. There were a lot of physical and emotional changes associated with the age group and hence time and again, boundaries were crossed and sometimes thrown out. However, it has been observed that pre-teen children these days, are victims of increased frustration and shortened fuses. It isn’t out of the ordinary to see kids as young as seven or eight flip their lid, when asked to do something as trivial as taking their plates to the sink after a meal. With regards to the patience element, I suppose it’s not just kids, but even adults. I mean back in the days when the Internet was in its nascent stages of dial-up, we were ok with having to wait the better part of 10 minutes for a basic page to load. These days, with technology having forged ahead, kids do not even know what “slow” means when it comes to technology. The amount of times they refresh a browser page or their Facebook page is a clear indication that the virtue of patience is on the decline.

Let’s be clear – I am not against technology and its use in day-to-day activities. Yes, technology has its upsides. Kids today know where to get the information. They are able to harness technology effectively, be it for the school essay homework or for their science project. Technology has helped make them more independent than our generation was, as kids. But there are always two sides to any argument, and I’m merely suggesting thatexcessive exposure to technology, especially for kids during their formative years, will not be without its drawbacks.

The simplest thing we can do is to ensure that we, as parents, use our sound judgment to ensure our kids use technology as a tool to survive and flourish in this era, but not at the expense of their basic inherent social skills

Now, to end on a lighter note, I’d like to ask all of you to attempt something – whenever you find a few spare minutes.

Image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net/Suat Eman

Try and “write” your next article or blog post in a book or sheets of paper. Ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh. Try and write a page of something, maybe even try to copy an article from the newspaper. Try writing it continuously without taking a break, sort of like writing an exam. For most of us, after a few lines, our arms will start to ache. Might be in varying shades of pain, but it will ache. Now think why?

You’re right – It’s simply because we don’t write as much as we used to. It’s all about typing, touch-screen pinching and swiping; that’s what we’re so used to, that we’ve completely lost touch with the art of writing. Our arm/hand muscles don’t get that much of a work out as they used to. Now think of the current and future generation of kids. They are already adept at using the touch screen to type and their fingers often fly through the keyboard keys. Imagine how they could possibly tackle a 3-hour examination (assuming that it is still three hours) where they have to write their answers. Their little arms probably hurt a lot more than ours; after all they’ve been using touch screens and keyboards from birth, and pens/pencils occasionally.

Do you reckon it’ll come as a surprise if their grades fall due to their inability to complete a physically written exam? After all not every exam will be a computer-adapted one. On that hopefully thought provoking note, I’ll end this here.

This post was originally written for Parentous, and you can view the original version here.