When it comes to electronics around the house, I’ve always been a bit of a tinkerer. Not in a bad way, actually; I would take apart some of my toys just so I could see how they worked, and then I methodically put them back together. I pressed odd buttons on the TV remote to see what they did, but I always managed to right the situation, or even discover some minor improvement that my parents only noticed when I pointed it out to them. It was a mostly agreeable coexistence; I knew my limits and never wandered into areas too complicated. I gently guided mom and dad towards the idea of a universal remote, flipped the answering machine tape when it filled, and took the first step (circa 1995) to sign our Compaq Presario onto the Internet (Dad was there to offer puzzled support, along with his credit card number for AOL).
These days, when I come home, I feel as if I’ve wandered into a minefield that’s part of my parents’ ongoing battle with technology. They are quick to adopt new devices and use them handily (exhibit A: the DVR revolution! exhibit B: Mom’s text messaging!), but in a big house with so many gadgets, the upkeep is creeping up on them. On their year-old PC, once so plagued by so many types of anti virus and spybot software that my parents have adopted a “don’t click OK!” policy, I found nearly a hundred Windows security updates that had yet to be installed, and pesky AOL software that had, in my mother’s words, “hijacked the computer.” (She’s right; I could find no evidence to the contrary.)
I swiveled around in the creaky desk chair to glimpse a new widescreen TV that constantly begged the questions, “is that HD or not?” and “why can’t I get it to fill the screen?” For two days, I bounced between appliances, trying to get them just right, only to return and find them in their former state. Or worse, I’d run into an irate Mom or Dad, seething a “what did you do to the [insert gadget here]?” I also gave myself a crash course on A/V tuners, HMDI, and HD-DVD to help my Dad complete the final stages of his home theater makeover, bearing in mind that one more piece of electronics might send him off the deep end.
Oh well, at least I fixed the coffee maker.