Notes from The Buffer Zone: Adopting

 

I’m an early adopter. It drives my husband crazy. I want the newest, latest gadget the moment I hear about it, and I want it now. He won’t let me go to any consumer electronics shows unsupervised (and without a wallet on my person) for fear that I’ll come home with more stuff than one person should own.

Who can resist talking refrigerators? (Well, he can.) What about thermostats that control the comfort level of your entire house? (Well, him again.) What about smart high heels that change color with just a click? (Okay, those aren’t marketed to him. But still . . .)

Dean isn’t an early adopter. He’s a little ahead of the curve in adopting tech. He gets what he needs when he needs it. He doesn’t geek out at the latest thing. (Wearables! I love wearables!) He watches me fondly as I struggle with the newest, latest, niftiest, and he gets annoyed when I access my inner Valley girl and tell him the tech he’s excited about is soooo five years ago. (Yeah, as you can tell, I’m not an early adopter when it comes to slang.)

Most of my friends fall into the spectrum between early adopter and keeping up with the current tech. None of them are late adopters. Not a one.

So color me surprised a few years ago when I edited a Fiction River anthology with some well-established writers in the table of contents. One writer still used his computer from the 1990s, and couldn’t give me an electronic file as anything but a very buggy text document. Another writer didn’t use e-mail (but used Facebook. Go figure). A third writer only had his older works in their publications—not even a manuscript that could be photocopied.

I’m beginning to realize that this is not unusual. I’m doing a series of anthologies that put me in touch with estates and with a wide variety of writers. Some writers, in their eighties, are more tech-savvy than I am. Others, in their forties, don’t even have a website and prefer to use the telephone. When I call, it becomes clear that the telephone isn’t a cell phone. It’s a landline.

When these things happen, I’m catapulted back to the 20th century. I remember editing The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction before e-mail became commonplace. I had an e-mail account, but the owner of the magazine (and my boss) did not.

So we used a fax machine, the phone (landline, even though I had a cell phone, an expensive cell phone), and FedEx. Sometimes I got five FedEx packages in a single day.

Let me state for the record: I do not miss those days.

And yet, some people I’m doing business with are sending me back there.

I recently was waiting for a contract to come from another business person, one whom I had contacted via e-mail, and who responded quickly by e-mail. Then . . . silence. Nada, nothing, even though everything was time-critical and the other party knew it.

How did the contract arrive?

By regular mail.

She could’ve sent it by e-mail and insisted that I send it back by regular mail. But apparently, that wasn’t something she did.

One agent I contacted for a project I’m working on only responded by telephone. He’s in his mid-fifties. He says he hates e-mail. I’m not sure if he hates that e-mail is a written record or if he actually hates e-mail. Either is likely, considering his age. (I should know: I’m also in my mid-fifties.)

Fortunately, he assigned my project to his twenty-something assistant who was relieved that I preferred e-mail. We’ve been getting the job done.

I’d forgotten in my cozy little world filled with people who embrace technology that there are technophobes as well as people who want to do everything the way they’ve always done it. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised: My grandmother kept her 1950s television, with tubes, until my poor uncle couldn’t get replacement tubes any longer (sometime in the 1980s, I think), because she liked making coffee while the set warmed up.

She was an early adopter on coffee makers, though, because they were easier than making coffee on the stove.

I’m thinking, though, that this early adopter thing runs in the family. My grandmother’s only daughter, my aunt Mary, has had a Facebook account for years. She’s turning 90 this year, and she updates her posts at least once a week, if not more often than that. Every year at Christmas, my father used to buy the latest gadgets, much to my mother’s dismay. I had a big Texas Instruments calculator the year they came out, before my junior high school math teacher had even seen one. (He banned it from his classroom after he figured out what it was. You’ll never learn how to do math if you touch that thing, he said. Heh. He was wrong.)

It’s really strange now to encounter these pockets of the past. They’re slowing me down on some of the projects I’m doing. I settle things with writers in Europe, even adjusting for the time difference, within 24 hours. But Luddite writers? It takes weeks to get a simple answer.

The writers don’t check their e-mail (if they have e-mail). They’re never on Facebook. And having a website? They don’t. (Isn’t that expensive? one of these writers asked me. How do you answer that? Not for me, it’s not, but for someone scared of tech? Probably . . . a little.)

I love the world of 2015. I love that when I finish this piece, I’ll e-mail it to my husband who is traveling right now. He’ll read it on his tablet over lunch, and get back to me, maybe by instant message, maybe by e-mail, and maybe, if he’s missing me, by cell phone.

Then I’ll e-mail this to the editor, and, once we’re done with all the back and forths, this column will go live. Then you’ll wander over to the website and read the column when you feel like it.

No mailing, no FedEx, no long waits for something.

Why are people choosing to live in the past? I don’t get it. I don’t see the benefit. But then, I’d never keep a TV that took five minutes to warm up either.

And I’m still considering those high heels that change color with a single click of an app. Not just because I’m a girl. But because . . . how cool is that?

 

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