Phyllis Britt

Phyllis Britt

Modern technology is definitely a curse and a blessing.

This past weekend we had a problem with our cable, and I was reminded just how dependent I am on the luxuries afforded us through the internet.

First of all, who doesn’t have a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop and some kind of access to TV through the internet. And as long as it works the way it’s supposed to, we are happy.

But when things go awry, I go a little crazy.

We are now so used to having a dictionary and an encyclopedia at our fingertips that, when I can’t stop and look up virtually anything I’m curious about, I feel a little discombobulated.

So when our cable would not talk to our TV last Friday night, I was definitely out of sorts.

The good news is that the other TVs in our house worked just fine. Only the one where I spend most of my TV-viewing time was not receiving the cable message.

I’m still getting used to the equipment we have now because several months ago the cable company called me to say they’d reduce my bill by about a third and give me TiVo to boot. How could I say no? It seemed like a great deal.

Of course, the first thing I realized after agreeing to the upgrade was that they needed to change out my modem. And you know what that means – everything that is dependent on the internet had to be reconfigured. I had to change that information for every device we own – telephones, iPads, computers, TVs, you name it.

But it was worth it. I can record anything I want to view later. I now have a stockpile of episodes of Jeopardy that I can watch at my leisure. I can record that Hallmark Christmas movie that I had to leave in the middle – like I hadn’t already seen it four times.

Now, the cable guy who installed the new equipment did warn me that sometimes the TV and cable would lose communication. He said, “All you have to do is unplug the cable box for a few seconds and then replug it.” Indeed, we have had to do that with the box in our sunroom about once a week, and it worked as promised – until last Saturday.

Try as I might, I couldn’t get anything to return to normalcy. We decided there was something wrong with the connector box.

But I figured I could handle it the way I’ve done it in the past. I trekked forth to the cable company offices on Saturday morning with the offending cable box in hand. I thought they would just give me a new box and send me on my way. After all, anytime I’ve had a problem in the past, I could just get a new box.

Au contraire. It’s never that easy.

With the advent of more and more complicated electronic devices, they no longer do that.

The customer service rep said since everything is now internet-driven, they have to send a cable guy to your home to check things out. But she went on to say they could send someone out the next day – on Sunday. I must admit I was pleased someone could come out so quickly. At the same time I was taken aback by the news that they have technicians working on Sunday. Is nothing sacred anymore? There is not a day that anyone can depend on as a day to rest and refresh. That makes me sad.

But sure enough, a technician showed up at my door on Sunday afternoon. He worked diligently for almost two hours. After trying everything he could inside the house, he finally said, “Do you have a crawl space?” I said, “Yes, but do you really want to do that?” By this time it was dark, and I didn’t relish the thought of this nice young man crawling around under the house in the dark. Fortunately, Tom said there was a second cable box just outside the sunroom, and he might not have to crawl around under the house. After doing his thing outside, he came back to try to reset the TV. I had to laugh when the technician startled me with a “woohoo!” when whatever he did worked.

Then he admitted something that surprised me. He said even though he gets cable for free, he just has the internet service and uses a Fire Stick and Roku.

Wow! That gave me pause.

We continued our conversation and somehow came around to his background. He admitted his introduction to things electrical and to the technology world was through a synergistic lab in middle school. He became so excited through the experience that he eventually went on to Aiken Technical College where he got two degrees. If you’re not familiar, several years ago the school district worked hard to install synergistic labs in every middle school. These labs, underwritten by area industry, offer kids a chance to be exposed to things like robotics, forensics, architectural design, alternative energies, weights and measures, etc.

I have heard that the synergistic labs are being dismantled throughout Aiken County. I hope that is not true. I have been through the synergistic labs at North Augusta and Paul Knox middle schools several times, and on each occasion it was obvious that the hands-on experiences there were lighting fires under kids who, for the first time, saw a path forward that didn’t necessarily have to include a 4-year college. Thanks to his experience, the cable tech is still considering electrical engineering as a goal, but for now he has skills that may never have blossomed if not for the synergistic lab.

I can only hope that if what I heard is true, there is a plan for experiences that will be comparable to what the synergistic lab offers. Not everyone learns as easily from a book.