I’m technologically challenged.
Though I’m an excellent button pusher, an acceptable internet navigator, and a mediocre typist, my ability to grasp most aspects of technology is essentially zero. This goes for all sorts of technology from cell phones to computers. You should have seen me the first time I was handed a flash drive. You’d have thought I was a neanderthal with a flashlight, absolutely bewildered and amazed. Once, when asked what kind of phone I had, I answered, “Pink.”
I am the stuff IT nightmares are made of, and I’ve terrorized my fair share of technical help personnel. I never mean to be difficult. I just don’t have the comprehension or vocabulary to ask the proper question nor to understand the explanation I receive once my intrepid assistant manages to decipher my inquiry.
This brings me to my poor brother. In our family he is by far the most technologically capable. Between me, my mother who still closes her internet browser only to open it again every time she wants to begin a new search, and my father who types about 5 words per minute using only his index fingers, Chris has his work cut out for him.
The other day I was chatting with him on Facebook when he mentioned that he was about to watch a 3D movie and it was going to be “doooooope.” I’ve never watched anything 3D when not in a movie theatre, and certainly not at home, so I asked how he was doing it. He mentioned that he had a new 3D projector. In the stunted part of my brain that is meant to house technological knowledge, this conjured an image of something more akin to a hologram, as though the projector could somehow create a 3D landscape in a room.
I was amazed. I was jealous. I was also clearly an idiot.
Upon learning that he needed both the 3D projector and 3D glasses, my brain nearly shut down. This seemed ridiculously redundant. If the projector did 3D, why would he need the glasses? Conversely, if he had the glasses, why would he need a special 3D projector? It made no sense. Convinced (correctly) that I wasn’t understanding, I begged for a simplified (for everybody’s benefit) explanation.
What ensued was a hilarious conversation in which his attempts to put technology into non-technological terms, for my benefit, only succeeded in bringing me to a previously undiscovered level of confusion before ultimately reaching enlightenment. Here, for your enjoyment, is our very own Abbott and Costello skit:
Chris: Here, let’s say that 3D is Spanish.
Me: Ok. Hola.
Chris: You speak English. A computer file is German.
Me: Oh dear.
Chris: You don’t know German.
At this point, he seemed to already sense this was going to go awry, so he tried to back out, but I genuinely wanted to understand. Being the good guy that he is, he kept with it.
Chris: Okay, you know what? No. there is no tldr (too long, didn’t read). You need them because… there.
Me: But what am I supposed to do about the German?
Chris: Nothing. NEIN. SCHNELL SCHNELL.
Me: Scheisse. I went to google translate, let it automatically detect language… it got German, but apparently I last translated to Irish. So if you ever need to know, scheisse = cac. Cac. Lolz.
Obviously, neither of us knows German.
Chris: Okay, well the comparison is this: the file is in German; a TV/projector only knows how to translate to Spanish; you need something that will translate Spanish to English, hence, the glasses.
Me: Why can’t the file just be in Spanish? Or why can’t the projector read German?
Chris: The projector reads German just fine.
Me: Oh right, speak German.
Seeing that I was hopeless, even with the relatively familiar topic of foreign languages, he decided to try a new metaphor to simplify it even further.
Chris: Or here, think of it like butter. You need that middle step of churning it, or it isn’t butter. Without the extra step, it’s still just cream.
Me: This is quickly turning into my favourite, if least enlightening, explanation ever. So what you’re telling me is that the projector is just a projector, or a butter churn, or a German-Spanish dictionary?
Chris: Take your pick.
Here I thought I’d finally got it. The projector was just a projector, like so many others I’d seen. It just took a computer file or a disc and made a picture with it like a TV. I didn’t see what all the fuss was about, but at least I thought I’d grasped it.
Me: So it isn’t special?
Chris: What isn’t?
Me: The projector.
Chris: No, it is.
Nope. I hadn’t understood anything.
Chris: Here, think of it like audio. There’s mono and stereo, right?
Me: Yup. Sound is all in the same place or it gets split.
I do have a very basic grasp of some technology.
Chris: Right. It’s either one thing going to both ears or two things going to two ears.
Me: Uh huh.
Chris: So it’s the same thing. The TV is mono - one signal to both eyes. A 3D video has a channel for each eye, but you need something that can separate them, like two wires. So your headphones splitting into two wires is the same as a 3D TV displaying a 3D image.
Me: They don’t just split the image in the file?
Chris: It splits it, but doesn’t get it into a form you can handle. It’s still just electricity.
Me: Ok. I like this explanation. I think I get it.
Chris: The earbuds themselves are the glasses, you can’t hear electricity. The headphone translates it to sound. Same with the glasses. You can’t understand the signal, and the glasses sort it for you.
Me: And now it makes sense.
Something about vocal harmonies coming at me, a different melody in each ear, to create a cohesive musical experience suddenly made everything clear. My understanding is still a very basic one, but at least I now have an understanding.
I was highly entertained and very impressed with my brother’s ingenuity in explaining a fairly technical thing to, well, me, and I told him as much.
Me: Thank you. I’m pretty sure that whole discussion is going to become my next blog post.
Chris: Haha, well good luck with that.
Me: Oh, I’ll manage. I think the world will marvel at your ingenuity and infinite patience because, you know, everybody reads my blog.
Chris: What can I say? I’m a good teacher.
Me: Ja, zer gut. Oops… not what I meant to say.
Me: I think I meant: ja, du gut bist. Meaning, “yeah, you’re good” in German, but instead I said “yes, destroy good”
Chris: Way to go champ.