Straight talk about hi tech

Her very old computer just didn't cut it any longer


gnoring surveys that show seniors represent a burgeoning proportion of the population, manufacturers of electronic gadgets such as mobile phones are rushing headlong to shrink everything further. Why?

Already I have trouble keeping track of my TV remote. What would my chances be of locating it in time to catch the suppertime news if it were smaller?

The launch of the iPhone5 had hordes ordering online while others queued around the block for hours to buy the latest Mac gadget with its many internal updates. And for what? If their old cell phones (if that’s what these are. Heaven help me. I’m no nerd) did the job before, why the scramble for an even tinier version?

For anyone with failing eyesight, add-ons can be bought such as keyboard covers with letters four times regular size. What I would like though, is some means to make TV remotes and other easily misplaced items speak up and make their whereabouts known.

What I envision is a central dock communicating through thin air with something small as a wristwatch battery that could be fastened — one on each item — somewhat like the red dots on library books that set off the alarm alerting the staff if anyone tries to leave the library carrying a book not properly checked out. Okay, I know the red dot doesn’t do the work of setting off the alarm. The red dot merely assures the librarian the book has been safeguarded, not skipped. The library keeps mum about how the safety system works, and that’s fine with me.

With one dot glued to my remote, if I needed to find it I could activate the port and immediately the remote would reveal its hideout whether squished like a fruit fly under a landslide of supermarket flyers, parked behind a jumble on the counter, or bookmarking where I left off reading Erin Doland’s, “Unclutter Your Life in One Week”.

My dream of a way to find lost items took on a new urgency the day I unboxed a new computer, bought to replace my six-year-old model that first began to show signs of ailing two years ago.

At that time the first diagonal line showed up on the desktop running from top to bottom. I was alarmed, but unwilling to make a move to replace the computer. As the months advanced, so did the lines. Today there are seven lines, in rainbow colours.

My old model became stubborn as a toddler, choosing what it would or wouldn’t do. First it began adjusting the size of mail screens, as if on a whim, from five inches wide to sprawling across the entire desktop. Next it refused to show news videos; it was too old to install updated Flash Player, meaning I couldn’t watch TV shows either. Last week it tantalized me with newspaper headlines only, no more complete stories. 

The last straw broke Sept. 20. Comedian Steve Martin announced he had awarded his third annual Bluegrass banjo-picking prize of $50,000 to Mark Johnson of Florida. I wanted to listen, but my old Mac crossed its arms and muttered, “No more YouTube sound. Movements, okay, but in silence.”

Computer specialists warned me after the first diagonal line showed up that one day my desktop could go black and that would be it. In readiness, I stockpiled a new computer. Last week, waiting for the elevator in the medical building, I heard a fellow say his computer had gone black that morning, and he was scrambling to replace it.

After Martin’s announcement, I unpacked this new computer to find both the mouse and keyboard are remotes, have no plug-in connection to the computer. Two more pieces I might lose track of.

That’s not the worst of it. This keyboard has letters and symbols the size of the font used to hide a list of disastrous circumstances your flight insurance policy won’t cover.