I had to get a new smartphone. My last one was more than three years old. Wait a minute. Why did I have to get a new smartphone? The one I had was only three years old. I’ve eaten cheese that was older than that. After a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth and screaming “FORGET IT! I’M TAKING IT BACK!” at least twenty-seven times before we even got home and a sleepless night and a lot of frustration with trying to transfer most of my data I finally accepted my new smartphone. Mostly. I still wonder who the idiot was who thought putting the headphone jack on the bottom was a good idea, which I realize is a change Apple made not long after I got my previous smartphone and which, three years later, is still one of the stupidest ideas ever, but that’s another story.
Let me be blunt: I hate changing technology because I think 99.999999999% of upgrades are completely unnecessary and while I’m not a violent person the fact that technologically oriented people all seem to believe that new or different automatically equals better makes me want to punch something. And it doesn’t help that when I’ve talked to tech-types about this I feel like I’m talking to a character from Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano.
If it weren’t for the people, the god-damn people’ said Finnerty, ‘always getting tangled up in the machinery. If it weren’t for them, the world would be an engineer’s paradise.
A lot of my frustration was what I lost. The songs I’d downloaded were gone. Well, not gone, really, but needed to be downloaded again because they’d been put back in “the cloud”. Songs I’d added from CDs–soon to be an obsolete technology, if it isn’t already, because it’s so darn old–would need to be reloaded. Podcasts I’d been saving to listen to were gone. And several of my favorite apps simply don’t exist anymore. I had to hunt around and find new ones to replace them. One of my favorite astronomy apps is gone but I found a new one called SkyView that’s free–my favorite price–and, much as I hate to admit it, is actually much, much cooler than the old one. I was playing around with it on the bus and had some idea of where we were in relation to Mercury, Venus, and the constellation Sagittarius, still below the horizon.
The bus and all the riders and all of us were–and are–travelling in space. Being able to see where we are in relation to some of our closest neighbors, and some very distant ones–stars so distant we’re really only seeing them as they appeared long before humans even appeared on this planet–gave me some perspective.
In the book Centauri Dreams Paul Gilster goes over a lot of possible scenarios for reaching Alpha Centauri and other nearby stars. It’s pretty daunting. Our closest stellar neighbor is more than four light years away so even if we could get a probe there it would still take more than four years for the data to get back to us. It seems unlikely we’ll get there in my lifetime. Our nearest planetary neighbors are much more within reach—and if you count unmanned probes we’ve been able to get at least near all of them.
I could have put the SkyView app on my old phone, but I didn’t know it was there. I didn’t think to go looking for it until I got a new phone. It helped me make peace with my new phone, and I can accept that sometimes technological change is a good thing.
Just don’t get me started on how stupid it is that the power cords have changed.
As a bonus here’s a picture of the moon and Aquarius over my house. It was actually a crescent moon but SkyView superimposes a picture of a full moon, in case you don’t know what that sickle-shaped thing in the sky is.