Oh, Home Back in the Range (Of Wireless Access!)
BoomTown has finally dragged all my various and sundry bags of gadgetry back to San Francisco after a week of it sitting mostly useless on a ranch in Wyoming.
However did I manage that?–at least according to a recent slightly alarmed series of articles in the New York Times (NYT) about how technology is messing with our inner chi.
Noted the Times, which has also been urging readers to unplug and then tell the tale:
“These technologies have become so constant in many of our lives we can’t see ourselves without them even as the impact of them on our personal and professional lives–and even our brains–is being discovered.”
Memo to the NYT editors: I survived the whole analog encounter just fine.
I was able to read a real book easily, sit quietly contemplating the cosmos and maintain regular eye contact with my children, even though I really also like being jacked into the matrix 24/7/365.
A brief rundown of how I did it:
Mobile Phone: My Apple (AAPL) iPhone has exactly zero bars at the Spotted Horse Ranch, which is located south of Jackson, Wyoming.
So the coverage was pretty much about what I get in San Francisco–except it was crystal clear when I was riding Lefty the horse on a mesa. I called my mom to say so.
But, in all, fewer than five calls all week.
I did post my location to Foursquare once from the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, because you kind of have to do that when you are sitting on a saddle at a bar drinking a beer.
Mostly, my smartphone went dumb.
Internet: The Wi-Fi went in and out unless I was in direct line of the office where the hub was located. So, I did not do much of that either, although I tweeted now and then and made sure I was up on whatever Lindsay Lohan was doing (making trouble as usual!).
But, since it was so slow, there was little Web surfing–which is pretty much how I get most of my news these days. Thus, I was forced to crack open the newspaper, and it worked well, although it still leaves my hands grimy.
Email was a lot easier, of course, and I did some, although only a tiny fraction of my usual, which is hundreds of emails a day.
Other devices: I retired the Flip camera, even to shoot videos, as I was taking to the trails daily. Let’s just say that horses irk a lot easier than Internet moguls, and I did not want to get bucked.
On the other hand, the iPad was a delight to have, whether doing crosswords at the creek, playing air hockey with Louie, piano with Alex or just doodling. Video and music playing was also a welcome feature.
I thought I would miss the online element of the tablet, since 3G did not work where I was and it was not easily able to find the faint wireless signal.
Not so. Apps are really versatile, and it is easy to imagine everyone having some kind of loaded tablet device from a variety of manufacturers on vacation.
Thus, I guess I was not truly unplugged, even though I was insulated from the constant pinging of my usual life. Does this mean my brain has warped to crave tech and think small thoughts?
Then again, I also did not churn my own butter or rope my own cattle for hamburgers, and somehow those are not an issue anyone has with modern life.
In other words, I really wish it were not an either/or debate over technology, as it always seems to degenerate into. We can all live both offline and online without having to denigrate one or the other, as if it were some noisy Western shootout.
Oh, they re-created one of those every night in Jackson, which you can watch here on a Webcam aimed at Town Square and its antler arches.