Terre Gorham 0000-00-00 00:00:00
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX I’m not proud of this, and I take no comfort that I’ve got plenty of company, but I’m allowing technology to steal pieces of my brain. It’s been going on for decades, the thief worming in so slowly that it’s only now, on this shaky pillar of ancient wisdom, that I see with startled clarity what others have told me for years: I’m brain-dead. I suppose I started relinquishing bits of gray matter when I was six or so and our first color television arrived — shortly after my savings passport went missing. Heretofore, we siblings had watched The Wizard of Oz on the 10-inch screen of a black and white Philco, blissfully unaware that our noodles would be cooked al dente by a boxed technology that promised “natural living color.” It was a big deal I’ll never forget, and we made quite a production of preparing to visit Oz for the first time in color. Mom allowed us to sit on the living room floor, share a bottle of Vess cream soda, and eat skillet-popped corn — as long as we didn’t “get rowdy” or wipe our greasy fingers on the room’s signature showpiece: a floor rug braided from sewing scraps. The big moment arrived. As Dorothy stepped through the sepiatoned farmhouse doorway and into a Technicolor Oz, we collectively gasped. “I thought her hair was black!” “I thought her house was white!” “I thought Toto was black!” “I thought her teeth were white!” And there it was. A child’s powerful imagination snatched baldheaded by MGM and placed in an RCA box. Through the years, this sort of thing continued. I exchanged memorized multiplication tables for a hand-held calculator. I retired my bank withdrawal slips when I employed an ATM card. TV dinners and the microwave replaced my ability to cook, while the word processor took a huge chunk of noggin when it debuted. If I hadn’t been so preoccupied with the psychedelic ’70s and its plentiful opportunities to hand over brain cells, I might have noticed some inventive harbingers, such as floppy disks, microprocessors, ethernet, and Pong. But I grooved around, and boxes began to multiply. The first IBM-PC arrived — charmingly cumbersome — along with MS-DOS. The first Apple computer didn’t fall far from the tree, and was rapidly joined by graphical user interface, virtual reality, CD-ROMs, Windows, and 3-D video games — and we hadn’t left the ’80s, yet! Pandora shrugged. Along came the answering machine, eliminating the need to remember who called and how to call them back — and, often, the need to call them back. I left a chunk of brain in that box. Cell phones jumped into the fray. I resisted until society beat me down, and when I finally surrendered, I took the section of my brain where memorized phone numbers for family and friends lived and gave it to a SIM card. So if I lose that sucker, I’m an instant orphan with no friends. The beginning of the end arrived with the World Wide Web and the Internet — I uploaded some major brain bandwidth into that box. I pretty much don’t have to remember anything anymore as long as I pay my electric and cable bills — which I can do online. Song lyrics, the preamble to the Constitution, home remedies, the periodic table, pi to the 10th decimal — all in a box. The more I look, the more pieces of brain I see scattered about. My car is responsible for turning off its headlights and directing me street by street to a new destination. The stove cleans itself, the online bank pays my electronic bills, a BlackBerry syncs my social and business lives, and — my favorite — “voice messaging centers” explain in automated detail how to leave a voice message, punctuated by a helpful reminder to hang up when finished. Which brings us to today’s continuing brain drain. My computer blocks pop-ups it says I don’t want to see, refuses to run add-ons, and keeps me in a constant state of paranoia by asking if I trust a program, a download, a website, or an email from Aunt Lacuna. Junk folders decide which emails I see, and imaginary friends in make-believe cyberworlds hijack the ability to live with real friends in a real world. I miss the power — the brainpower. The inconvenient truth will arrive when the electricity blows, our rechargers lose juice, and the batteries die — and all our boxes slam shut, sealed with our brains inside them. Little did I know all those years ago as I watched the dancing scarecrow on the yellow brick road sing, “If I only had a brain!” that the response nearly half a century later would be, “For what?”
Published by Downtowner Magazine. View All Articles.
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