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Guest Humor- Digital Divide

George Kurien

I don’t know how you all feel about this ‘digital’ stuff that has, of late, become our way of life. Everything that’s anything, something, or nothing is all digital these days, can you digit (I mean dig it)?! Digital camera, digital movie, digital audio/video, digital money, digital books, digital this and that and the other… Even the hand signals that they show on the highways when someone cuts them across are digital. The other day, I changed my cellular phone service from Bell South Mobility to Powertel, and they asked me if the phone equipment that I had was digital. I had no clue. I asked the agent what other possibilities were there. That was a big mistake. And guess what. I had to buy a new handset. $160.00 down the drain, which I later figured out to be the price of the two old analog phones that my wife and I originally had!!

Enough said, but there are certain things in life that I hope would stay analog. My clock, for example… I didn’t start out ‘digitally’, for want of an analogous word, in this world. And I believe that’s the case with most of us, except may be for some of our kids who were born in the 90’s, or like someone said the other day, in the AC 20’s (for After Computers). Everything that I knew, touched, or was surrounded by was analog. But that was in BC (You guessed it! Before Computers…). For example, I learned how to tell time in the most analogous way. The interesting thing about it is that this was way before I knew how to really tell time. My father, who would be doing some chore in another room or outside the house, would ask me to go and look at the old time piece (our Big Ben!) that we had in a glass cage on the teakwood wall of our 19th century abode, and call out to him which hand was on what number. That’s right, there were real wooden walls in houses, and real numbers, not just lines, on clock dials! I’d yell out like, “the small hand is on 2 and the large hand is between 10 and 11”. My father, in his infinite wisdom, would suddenly figure out what time of day it was and say, “it’s going to be 2 o’clock”. I was fascinated beyond comprehension as to how he figured that out. Then, a few years later, I had my younger brother, Andrew, do the same thing for me. He was a good ‘timey-tell’ too like me, but was impatient every time he did that chore for me. Unlike me, who considered the assignment a privilege, my brother thought it was a chore. I don’t think he realized the significance of the glorious mission that he was performing.

My father used to wind the clock (That’s right, we had to wind that baby!) every morning at about 8, which I would go and watch in astonishment. If he had a lot of time in the morning that he didn’t know what to do with (which really happened on certain mornings, believe it or not!), he would also wind the other key in the back of the time piece and let the alarm go for a few seconds, which almost always made my day. I always wanted the alarm to go on and on, but about 15 seconds of that irritating noise is all what my father could stand, after which he would stop the alarm, and put the clock back in its cage until the following morning. I decided right at that time that when I had enough money, I would buy a time piece just like that one at the first available opportunity and let that alarm go on for ever and ever. It’s ironic, though, how certain things that were dear to us when we were kids suddenly become an absolute pain. If there is one thing that I hate now, it is the alarm clock! The first thing I’m going to do upon retirement is to throw in the garbage that silly thing, which is occupying ‘space-time’ on my night table. I will do it, and I mean it! Any way, coming back to the story, after a couple of years when my father taught me how to ‘wind’ the clock, I thought he made a mistake in pronouncing the word ‘wind’. I was sure it wasn’t wind, because I decided it didn’t sound like an English word. But ‘bind’, on the other hand, had more pizzazz, and sounded more ‘Englishy’. I told one of my cousins that I knew how to ‘bind’ the clock, and he went and told his friends how smart I was knowing what I knew about clocks. Naturally, a lot of them were impressed.

Hamburger is another one of those things in life that I would hope would not go digital. I don’t mind paying for it ‘digitally’, but the hamburger part has to be in analog form. I can’t see myself eating a digital variety sandwich. French fries, on the other hand, is a totally different matter, and a good candidate for going digital. They even look like digits! And so do onion rings, which, together with the fries, can make the quintessential zeros and ones in the digital pair. Bread sticks? Fine, but pizza? Not a chance! Bon apetit!…….

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