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Back in the ’50s, I’d plop down in front of the TV and watch shows like Gunsmoke, What’s My Line or The Jack Benny Program. Deciding what to watch was simple. I looked through the TV Guide, made my selection, and tuned in, seldom rising to change the channel.
I tied a string to the electric cord connected to the small black-and-white set in my bedroom. At night, when I started dozing off, I’d give the string a tug and pull the plug out of the socket. Sadly, I never got any credit for inventing the first TV remote.
In those days, watching TV was relaxing. But now, I feel anxious when I turn on the set. There are hundreds of shows to choose from every week. When I grew up, there were only three or four channels (now there are hundreds), which made the selection process in those days much easier. Not only that, but if you happened to miss an episode of, let’s say, Twilight Zone, it didn’t really matter. Why? Because there would be something completely new and creepy the following week. But now, you have to watch these shows beginning with the very first episode or you will be lost. I don’t care how good the previews are, you can’t flip to Homeland in the middle of season three and expect to know why Carrie is sleeping in a psych ward disguised as a Muslim sheik.
What’s worse is that if you try to watch dozens of series at the same time, it becomes impossible to keep all the plots and characters straight. Imagine reading 24 books simultaneously. At least we have DVRs to help us manage our viewing time. That makes things much easier…sort of.
“Mary Ellen, when I watched True Detective last night, I didn’t recognize the characters.”
“Because, Dick, I think you recorded True Crime by mistake. Or maybe American Crime?”
“Or maybe I taped American Greed? No, I think it was The Americans.”
“Dick, did you record Masterpiece Theatre for me?”
“I recorded Masters of Sex by mistake. I watched one episode already. Why does a guy have to prepare a sumptuous meal just to get his wife in the mood?”
“I think you were watching Master Chef.”
“Well, I did record Kevin Spacey in House of Lies.”
“He’s in House of Cards.”
“I miss just plain House.”
I really don’t want to watch all these shows, but I hear people talking about them at work and at parties, and I want to be as culturally hip as possible. This is not easy for a senior like me who only recently discovered that Bruno Mars is not a candy bar and Kanye West is not a discount airline.
Right now, our DVR has a couple dozen programs on it. “We have so much to watch,” said Mary Ellen the other day. “We need to stay home an entire weekend and finally get through it.”
We used to say that about cleaning the house.
For the longest time, I wrestled with the idea of owning an iPad. I had a smart phone, which fit neatly in my pocket, and I had a computer that fit neatly in my basement. I didn’t see the point of owning another gadget, especially since I was still unskilled in the two electronic devices I already had. Then came the answer to my prayers: iPad For Seniors, For Dummies. It doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue, does it?
The Dummies series includes more than 260 publications. I own Living Vegan for Dummies and Backyard BBQ for Dummies (I go through phases). Years ago, I wanted to learn how to throw my voice but was disappointed to find there was no Ventriloquism for Dummies available.
The author of this new iPad book, Nancy Muir, has published more than 100 articles on technology and is a leading software consultant. I assume she is about 11 years old, because no one my age could know that much about computers.
The intro begins by noting that this is “a book for people who have no experience with tablets.” I don’t think I’m unique, but I take several tablets every morning. The writer explains that the book was written for the target audience of mature people, but no matter how simple Nancy tries to make this, if you are north of 50, you are going to have to resist having a tantrum after the first three pages.
Also in the introduction: “With your new iPad, you’ll learn how to have fun. You can explore the online world, organize your receipts and look at naughty videos.” (It doesn’t really say that last one, but including that information might finally entice some seniors into the Apple Store.)
The section “How to Choose the Right iPad for You” is more sage advice from the expert. Here, we learn that there are different styles and that “the new ones are getting lighter and thinner—great for the older population.” This sounds more like ad copy for Depends.
And this section: “How Much Memory Do You Need?” Coincidentally, this is also the name of a free brochure now available at my geriatrician’s office. There’s also advice on whether to purchase an iPad that uses only Wi-Fi, or to invest in a device that also has 3G. The author asks: “Do you want to use your iPad only at home or do you want to walk around with it?” This makes the 3G version a perfect gift for my uncle Leo, who occasionally disappears at night and wanders off into the forest.
There is also a chapter on how to shuffle, a program that takes all your music—in my case, that would be my three Neil Sedaka songs—and plays them in random order. My wife hates it when I shuffle. That’s why she hid my open-back slippers.
I had trouble understanding a lot of stuff in the book, which made me feel very dumb. That’s when I decided it was time to buy another one of the actual top-sellers in the series: Self-Esteem for Dummies.