Not So Great
Inside the Outdoors, May 13
, 2011

Recently while going through some boxes to see what I could eliminate, I came upon a collection of negatives that I have kept over the ages mainly of family activities, particularly of the children growing up. Many of the pictures made are in albums, but it is still good to have the negatives instead of having duplicates made from machines.

There is only one problem. Few retailers will duplicate pictures from negatives any more. A matter of fact, since the digital cameras have become so popular some film production companies have gone by the wayside and people are not using the rolled perforated plastic material in 35mm and larger format cameras.

The first thing that went through my head was this. Being a past professional photographer for over 40 years left me with not only a lot of stories to tell, but all a lot of negatives that I kept particularly of the kids.

Technology, I’m afraid, is getting the best of us. Even the Pope, in his address mentioned that we should be mindful of the use of it to the point that it doesn’t control us.

One middle-aged man asked me where he could buy Polaroid film. I told him, I believe, one can no longer buy this film any more. “Then, I guess I’ll just have to throw the camera away.” I told him to hold onto it for a while. I know there are outfits out there that will buy old cameras. I sold a number of mine. Maybe he can do the same.

Not long ago, I bought a digital tape recorder to tape our choir. I’ve been reading the directions now for over a month and can’t make head or tail or them. At least I got it charged. From there on, it’s all a mystery to me. Too bad, because I wanted to record our church choir for Easter. I imagine every church in the Greater Latrobe area and outlying districts such as Derry, Norvelt, Youngstown, etc., have churches that feel the same way as I do. But being a part of our choir, I’m a little bit prejudice you might say. The men and women, excluding yours truly, have extraordinary voices that I could listen to over and over again. But the not so great part of this story is, I couldn’t record the choir. Now, why can’t technology be simplified that even an 67 year-old senior citizen can figure these things out?

I have gotten to the point that I don’t even want to buy any more of these technological inventions for the fear that the same thing will happen – I won’t be able to follow the instructions to figure out how they work. What use is it to buy something and then have it sitting around the house?

When my father was alive, he used to tell me people not employed by these companies should write instructions. That way the common man or woman could understand how to put things together or work various mechanisms. I remember him struggling to put toys and what-have-you together for Christmas and birthdays, always struggling with understanding the written steps that were taken. That should serve as an invitation to companies to have instructions written by a fifth grader rather than someone who mastered his doctorate. I say fifth grader, because when I entered newspaper work 45 years ago, my boss told me, that was the grade level understood by the general public. Later, I asked a television commentator what level she was instructed to use and she replied, third.

Thank goodness, I still carry around my micro-cassette tape recorder to do interviews when I write my newspaper columns. That way, I can get my spellings of names correct, titles or positions held and other information that is relevant to the coverage. I’ve even taken it to church to use in the choir. Parts are easier to learn when recorded.

But if I were to take my new device to rehearsals, that would definitely not be so great. There are so many questions attached to the usage of this expensive waste of money, I would have a number of things to say and I’d have to hold my tongue on most of them.

Bring back the old machines. I’m sure something can be arranged where the old and the new can be made compatible. Make the device a little bigger so that us old folks don’t have to carry magnifying glasses to read where the on/off switch is, etc. And third, and most important at that, WRITE INSTRUCTIONS SO EACH STEP CAN BE READ BY EVERYONE INCLLUDING SENIOR CITIZENS.

It is my opinion, that if we buy one of these products, someone trained on how to use the devices should guide us through each step of learning it. Otherwise, face it, we’re doomed!

- Paul J. Volkmann
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