Monday, June 27, 2016
VOLUME -24 NUMBER 8
Publication Date: 08/1/2009
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ARCHIVE >  August 2009 Issue >  Tech Watch > 

Learning to Read Hungarian

I'm supposed to be the technical guru, the go-to guy when anybody has a technical question about computers, TVs, DVRs, and such. I am chagrined to admit that as our technology mushrooms, I find myself knowing less and less about the techni-toys that fill my life and absorb the total concentration of every teenager in the known universe.

Just to make a point: I am writing this using WordStar, a long-defunct word processor that uses (horrors) MS-DOS. Yes, I use Word and WordPerfect and PhotoShop, and I have some really neat games from Hoyle that I immerse myself in every so often. But is my objective in life really to become the computer Spades or Cribbage champion? Hardly. I continue to use a venerable antique as a word processor simply because in my long experienced hands it is very fast. I understand it inherently, since I have been using it since 1981 (would you believe?). The only part of my life that has a longer record is my marriage, now in its 33rd year. My first marriage lasted barely five years. WordStar takes up very little in the way of computer resources, and very few mistakes are irreversible, unlike some of the really horrid clunkers I have managed to pull off when using Word.

In addition, as some of you readers already know, I absolutely abhor Windows Vista, and went to great lengths to rebuild and update a 5-year-old desktop computer because it still runs on Windows XP. Besides, Vista won't let me use my beloved WordStar, although I did try fooling around with some workaround patches (unsuccessfully) for a while.

A year ago, I discovered to my delight that I qualified for a free upgrade to a Verizon Palm Centro. At last, I would be free from the need to carry both my cell phone and my now antiquated and hopelessly outdated Palm Pilot which contained my whole personal and business life. After a year, I am feeling a little more comfortable with the Centro; my 42-year-old son was astounded to discover that we both had the exact same telephone, and proceeded to load mine with a bunch of memory-hogging nonsense programs and games that I have not yet and will probably never use. I have finally made my peace with the Centro, and am starting to fill it with data. But alas, the 3,000 data entries in my old Palm Pilot still have not been transferred, since the software is not totally compatible, and the transfer will require a huge time expenditure on my part. As I near my dotage, nothing seems to be getting any easier with all of this wonderful new technology. Some day, soon I hope, I will get it all working together.

Last March/April, a short flight from Tucson to Las Vegas for APEX was all it took to convince me of the folly of continuing to use an increasingly cumbersome CD player plus an equally cumbersome wallet full of CDs on a commercial aircraft. I noted with great interest and envy the tiny iPODs that everyone else seemed to have, and how very portable they were. Okay, so I'm behind the times. I thought I was so cutting-edge when I had a MotoSat Internet satellite dish installed on the roof of my RV back in 2003 — a dish that has since been scrapped because it became outdated. I live and work in an RV and when we sold our house in New Jersey, I brought my entire CD collection of about 900 discs with me in very large, loose-leaf CD wallets. I also have a desktop computer with a 500GB hard drive that has tons of unused capacity, but contains none of my CD collection. They're selling 2TB external hard drives for less than $100. I am the editor of a technology publication. Is something wrong with this picture?

Then one day, in a burst of self-indulgence, while shopping in CostCo, I splurged on an iPOD — the cheapest one they had for something like $139 and justified it by calling it a Father's Day gift to myself. I opened the package well after Father's Day, and got out my magnifying glass to read the directions printed in 2-point type. I next found myself going to the Apple website to download the needed software, and had to sidestep a lot of sales pitches for music downloads from the Apple store.

I plugged the new toy into my computer and let it charge for a day or so, then tried to copy some CDs into my computer using Apple software. No dice; it wanted me to download the program content from the store. I tried several CD writing programs that I own, but they all wanted to burn CDs, not read them into the computer. I was beginning to get very frustrated. Kids 10 years old have iPODs that they use the heck out of. And here I am, the technology guru, the guy who never leaves a DVR/VCR with a flashing 12:00 on the readout, and I couldn't get the basics for the damned iPOD.

So I played around with it some more, learning the controls, and discovered to my horror that I had changed the language. I believe what I now have on its screen is Czech or Hungarian, and I can't figure out how to change it back to English. I have no plans to start studying Czech or Hungarian, so I have lost control totally, and I still have no music on it.

My youngest daughter and her significant other are flying into Seatac in a few days to spend a week visiting with us. I am really looking forward to the visit. What she doesn't know is that part of her time here will be spent showing her doddering old stepfather how to use his new iPOD. I hope she doesn't tell me that I have to learn to read Hungarian. 

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