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Back Forty: Antennae but no television
The Back Forty
By Roger Pond

The recent electronics show in Las Vegas gives us some idea where we’re going with electronic technology. We have reached the point where a person can’t blow his nose without accessing the Internet.

The trend in electronics is to connect everything to everything else. That way we can watch television on our cell phone while we talk through our refrigerator.

We can be watching television in the living room, and a little icon scrolls across the screen telling us we are low on toilet paper in the bathroom. We can download music, scan photos, and make coffee - all from the comfort of our couch.

All of this gadgetry wouldn’t scare me so much if it weren’t for the trend toward putting it into cars. We’ve got enough people talking on their cell phones while they drive down the road. We don’t need them fiddling with their GPS systems and playing on the Internet at the same time.

We may have to require that each car contain at least two adults: One to drive while the other one plays with the gadgets.

There’s no question all of these toys are attractive to kids, but folks my age just want something that works. We don’t want to spend three days learning how it works, either.

And, if you think we are going to read the manual, you have another think coming. We’ve seen too many manuals.

A recent news report says folks like me are known as “late adapters” to the electronics industry. There’s no point in giving us gadgets for Christmas if we don’t know what they’re for, anyway. We’re just going to return them or hide them in the basement.

Retailers are beginning to recognize this. They have started giving seminars and selling support services to teach us late adapters how to use this stuff.

Circuit City, for example, offers to sell us a gift card for $34.99 that will provide live online support to learn about our MP3s. (What the heck is a MP3, anyway?)

Whatever happened to the days when stores gave us live support for nothing?

Retailers should understand that my generation would rather talk to a salesperson than a website. If a salesperson can’t tell us how to use the product, we won’t buy it. (And if we don’t like the salesperson, we won’t buy it, anyway.)

My dad was a good example of this. Dad sold televisions and appliances at a little store called The Appliance Shop. I suspect Dad could sell these new gadgets as well as anybody.

One day a fellow came into The Appliance Shop to buy a television. This man had never owned a TV, so Dad showed him everything he had. Unfortunately, the customer couldn’t make up his mind.

Some folks are like that. There’s no use pushing them.

So Dad said, “I can see you may need some time to think about which television you want. But while you’re here, you might as well buy your antennae. That way, you’ll be all set up when you get the television.”

This fellow bought the antennae and left, happy as could be. That made Dad kind of famous down at the coffee shop.

“Who else,” they asked, “could sell antennae to a man who doesn’t even have a television?”

This farm news was published in the February 1, 2006 issue of Farm World.