We grew up with telephones. Plain old phones. That was how we kept in touch. Well, that and the U.S. Mail. I remember thinking it was so cool just to call a number to get the time of day, or the weather, or a horoscope.
It wasn’t that long ago that just getting a cordless phone – along with an answering machine – seemed amazing.
Today, though, there seems to be a new gadget (nicknamed “device”) or software program (nicknamed “app”) for staying in touch being announced every day of the week. And our fancy devices seem to be obsolete just about the time we get comfortable with them. Then we find the warranty ran out in a blink, and the retail store support center says it will cost more to give you the service than if you just succumb to buying the newest thing they are offering. But they don’t know how well that new thing might work with the others, so there isn’t a warranty on that either.
Change is hard, and it tends to get more difficult as we age. Also, it’s true that many of our living rooms and dens are filled with devices which are connected with cords and cables and magic remotes that defy even expert attempts to troubleshoot when something goes wrong. One power outage, for example, and you may not be even to call to get service, because you need the internet just to look up the phone number of the power company!
Here are some things you can do to simplify, without giving up the functionality YOU want:
First: Think of the functionality you really DO want. Not focusing on the “things”, but on what you want to do to stay connected. Examples might include: “I want a reliable phone in the house, and I want to be able to hear it ring, and reach to pick it up without searching the house for it.” “I want to easily print paper copies of web pages or emails,” or, “I want to watch movies and regular broadcasts on the TV.” “I want to have ready access to online books.” “I want to be able to call my kids and grandkids with a video link, because I like being able to see them.”
Second: Inventory the “things”: Take a quick inventory of your electronics. Seriously! Just walk around the house so that you don’t forget things that haven’t been used in long time. And for each “thing” (gadget/computer(desktop or laptop)/TV/stereo/phone/modem/printer), jot a note about how often you use them, and frequency of them causing trouble. For example, I have two old VCRS – I’m not sure either works anymore, because it has been that long since I tried. I also have a small TV in the bedroom that I haven’t watched in about 10 years. I have more than one old printer that isn’t working, and storing them in the basement has been easier than recycling. (Tech Inventory Worksheet)
Third: Connect the dots. One of the hardest things that our generations have been battling with in our home electronics has been the connections. Older electronics require cables, newer ones are trying to move to wireless connections, and we are all stuck in the middle, trying to mix and match various “things” that really are only patched up to work together. “Wifi”, “Bluetooth”, “HDMI”, … So don’t think it’s just you who gets swamped with that complexity. Ten years ago, I had to buy a DVD player, a receiver, a TV, and a speaker system just to get my daughter’s movies to play. And since I wanted her to be able to watch from the basement family room, I had to do that twice. And then of course we had to get a “Wii” – and then came “Xbox” … each one adding to the complexity.
Last step: Don’t give up hope! The issues of complexity for our usual connections are being addressed in great new products like Smart TVs, and they are becoming mature enough that they can be very reasonably priced. Ask a local expert (a child or grandchild, a friend from work or your community, or a service like “Geek Squad”, or us, Silver Technology Systems) for advice about how to create an up-to-date system for YOU. You will be prepared. Ask for help in removing old devices (recycling devices can be a challenge, more on that in a future post). And then, evaluate the cost of keeping the status quo, versus swapping out the old for the new, and then build a plan and a budget to get there, and stay there. The retail sales people are a starting point, but, because they have something to sell, you will want to find a trusted person to help you weigh the options.