Law Of The Land

Tech Schmeck

By Jeff Berner

In 1894, Mark Twain plunked down $125 for a Remington Model I typewriter. The first American author to buy one, Twain later wrote, "The machine has several virtues . . . One may lean back in his chair and work it. It piles an awful stack of words on one page. It don't muss things or scatter ink blots around."

We've come a long way in 100 years. In fact, the personal computer you buy today to manage your homebased business is more powerful than the computers that landed astronauts on the moon in 1969. But as our technology becomes more powerful, so does our fear and frustration.

A recent issue of the Mayo Clinic's HealthQuest newsletter reports that nearly 60 percent of all respondents are "technophobic." The research found that when an electronic device fails, two-thirds of the people studied blame themselves. Technophobia is the dirty little secret leaking out of the high-tech revolution, and homebased workers who have no technical support staff must come to grips with this debilitating "disease."

But there's a price to pay for the convenience afforded by high technology. Many devices, from cell phones to computer modems, become a source of constant interruption and repair. And--let's be honest--few software releases are truly ready for use by ordinary mortals.

"Even if you have a feel for these tools, you usually have to learn a given software application when you're under immediate pressure to produce," says Dean Ritz, a Seattle-based business and licensing strategies consultant.

We all want to keep doing what we do best--writing, architecture, research--while gaining productivity and leisure time. You may be able to set the clock on your VCR, but can you set it to record the right program on the right channel at the right time--using those instructions written in some vaguely familiar language?

One way to address the problem may be to take things slowly. Ritz, for example, has made a practice of learning the tools he needs in a leisure-ly manner and then using them for specific tasks.

Like Ritz, we, too, must learn to come to terms with technology at our own pace. Only by sticking to our own rhythms can we make these machines work for us--not the other way around.

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