Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian.
“It’s brighter light in here.” Grandfather of fifteen, and great-grandfather of three, offered a chair to the twenty-one year old granddaughter, Elaina. Both walked into a dinette facing west, and sat by a circular table with its thick Formica top.
Taking out Smartphones, the Smartwatch was placed in front of Elaina. The teaching session began. As I emptied the dishwasher, I heard words of Apps, Spotify, e-mail, pictures, texting, using SOS for emergencies, receiving phone calls, checking heart rate. Could the phone be left home and just the watch used, or did the phone have to be within thirty feet? I closed the appliance and went into the adjacent room.
“What’s the forecast?” I asked the artificial intelligence cylinder and was given an answer within seconds. Too chilly to sit on the porch, I took my crossword puzzle book and sat where I could hear the conversation from the dinette.
“I can make the face anything from the list? Oh, I have to charge it every night? Can I ask a question to my wrist and get an encyclopedia answer?”
I’d read that a device will be out this year featuring a screen and phone built into an artificial intelligence item. The ad showed a man holding a coffee mug talking and seeing family on a tv screen yet the man was in his kitchen and no phone was in sight. Alexa, Google, Siri, Cortana, Bixby......... I grew up with a live operator when I phoned outside of my area. There were only four numbers and a two-letter prefix which actually identified the town I lived in; mail had no zip codes; if one wanted a letter to arrive sooner than by regular, an air mail stamp had to be purchased for additional money. One actually needed to know how to spell to look up a word in a dictionary, something rather silly because if a word’s spelling was known then the dictionary wouldn’t be needed.
“But how would I know.....” More sentences were overheard by me. “How much information will it hold?” “It’ll tap my wrist letting me know I’ve mail when it’s on mute! Hard to imagine. Show me how that works?”
Self driving cars need someone to go to the DMV and get license plates. Self driving. My dad’s first car had no heat and itchy wool blankets were draped over a rod affixed to the back of the front seats. Passengers needed them for warmth in the winter. In the summer, with the driver’s window open, my dad’s left elbow and several inches above and below it, would get sunburned. He didn’t live to see air-conditioned cars, and I’ve experienced making a phone call while in a moving vehicle. My computer-tablet has a viewing area larger than the first television set the family bought in May 1948.
“Explain how the phone and watch synch. Then let me send a text to your phone and see if it comes through.”
So much learning. The heavy black land-line only phones had us tethered to placement, and running from one room to answer its rings in another area was exercise. A phone on a wrist; who would have imagined it before even aircraft had jets rather than only propellers.
“Hey, you guys.” I called after two hours had passed and my large-print-but-hard-crosswords went as far as my mind and patience.
“Almost finished, Grandma.” Elaina responded. “Why don’t you come here and see this stuff.”
To a twenty-one year old, this is stuff. To me, it’s ‘magic’. I went to the dinette table and saw two smiling but tired faces.
“Thank you so much, Grandpa, for teaching me how to use the Smartwatch, and for giving it to me.”
She put out her left wrist and giggled. I hugged her with enthusiasm, grinned at my husband who was the teacher and not the learner, and realized that very few old men would be showing a young person how to use a tech device; role reversal took on a new meaning.