Gearhead Diary: Resistance is futile

PHOTO BY MATT BARTMANN Modern day motel communications: A proper phone, an old computer, and a smart phone that's probably smarter than I am.

Matt Bartmann

“I fear change.” Or, “It still works.” Or, “I can fix it if it breaks.”

Those are my typical replies when folks ask why I’m still using Windows XP, or why I keep the old points-and-condenser ignition system in my old cars rather than “upgrading” to electronic ignition. I used a rotary phone until I moved to where there were no phone lines.

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I’ve spent my life seeking out older technologies that I understand. Stuff that can be fixed with a wrench and a screwdriver. Or a hammer. I’ve managed to repair many old rotary dial phones that didn’t work.

I was also pretty quick to friendly up to touch-tone phones. In fact, I thought they were pretty neat, as opposed to their rotary counterparts. Especially if the number I was calling had lots of eights, nines, or zeros. Touch-tone was easy. And I repaired a couple, when the problem (usually a bad connection) was obvious.

Flip-type cell phones weren’t too awful hard to operate. Not that I ever had one. I didn’t. But I could figure out how to use a borrowed one in a pinch. Fix one? Never even considered it.

Asking to borrow a phone now, and being offered a “smart phone,” I ask the owner to make the call for me. So they do, then hand the device to me. I hold it like it’s a Fabergé egg, hoping not to break it. Scary stuff.

Somehow or other, all my grease-and-grit friends seem to have latched onto this newer technology that I have eschewed. “Text me,” they’d say. “Huh?” would be my reply.

Working in the garage and realizing a part or tool was needed, I would see friends tap on their “phone” a couple of times to watch a quick tutorial video showing how to complete their project. Or they would order up a missing part or needed tool, and the next day, the UPS guy would deliver the required item.

It’s the way the world is now, and I finally gave in. Planning a road trip, our first step was to renew our AAA membership. And, without a phone, AAA doesn’t do much good if you get into a pickle.

We needed a phone. And while we were at it, it seemed like a good idea to get one that can do more than just make phone calls. Maps? Sure. And knowing from experience just how unreliable motel wifi can be, we wanted to be able to “hot-spot” the phone so we can have internet anywhere we have a cellphone connection.

Unlimited data? You bet. Then we can stream music into the car stereo. Handy, since all the CDs we own are annoyingly scratched, and they all skip.

So we bought a smart phone. And a plan that provides all these luxuries. It’s been great! Good music on the road, maps at our fingertips. And we can make phone calls. Neat stuff!

Everything you need when on the road. A heater, a radio, and a “smart” phone.

After five days on the road, we were told via “text” that our voicemail wasn’t set up. So we learned how to set up the voicemail.

Three days later, we figured out how to actually check our voicemail.

Another two days, and we figured out how to send text messages. Even by talking at this new device and letting it do the typing for us.

Yep. Resistance is futile, I guess. We still don’t know how to use this thing to its potential. We never will, I suppose.

Our phone service plan has no contract, so I won’t worry about breaking it when we get home. Until then, I’ll hold it like an egg.

And if it breaks, well, I’ll have that hammer at the ready, should I feel it’s the best tool to “fix” the thing.