Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New high-tech toys need a dose of magic

Back in the dark ages of the mid-1990s, I was editing a story about Israel. I had a few questions and needed to reach the reporter who worked out of Jerusalem. So I picked up my phone, tapped in a few numbers and only seconds later was chatting with the writer on his cell phone as he was finishing up an evening jog to Bethlehem.

BTW, Bethlehem means house of bread! But I digress. I’ve forgotten the details of the story I was editing for that place with the printing press here in the Land of Cotton, but I still recall the sense of wonder I felt at being able to reach the reporter, dashing about on the other side of the world.

I have some vague idea how the whole communication network comes together – radio signals, cell zones, transmitters, receivers and satellite uplinks – and, well, pixie dust. Truth to tell, cell phones and other such high-tech gizmos are scientific wonders; but for me, it’s magic that makes them work!

I mention all this now, because the magic has lost its power in my little corner of the world – at least for the moment. I’ll explain.

The lovely Miss Wendy and I decided to jump into the 21st century recently. We dusted off and packaged up the ancient box televisions that had served us well for years and bought a couple of those ginormous, oh-so high-tech flat screen TVs.

Fortunately, there’s a magician in the family – that would be Josh, my son-in-law – who tossed about some pixie dust, waved his magic wand and, voila, our new TVs were up and running. Life was good!

For a week or so – and the timing was perfect – I was able to watch college bowl games and the NFL playoffs in a very up close and personal sort of way. My favorite programs were much more vivid, the color stronger, the acting sharper. Okay, the acting was pretty much the same; but everything was bigger and, for the most part, better!

All of this was playing out on regular cable; I had yet to upgrade to HD – that’s one of those new miracle thingies that provide sharper and clearer images. The new stuff had been ordered and several days ago I received all the upgraded equipment – HD boxes, a DVR, and HDMI connectors; a bit of mandrake root, toad spittle and saffron for coloring!

The family magician managed to get by over the weekend, set up the new components, tossed on a bit of pixie dust and stirred it all ever so gently. We stood by waiting for the magic to take hold and, ah, nothing! Well, actually there was something – an error code.

Josh wiggled some stuff around, tossed on some more toad spittle and waved his, ah, magic wand yet again. And, wait for it, nothing! Unfortunately, the magician and his beautiful assistant had places to go and I was left staring at a blank screen.

I knew I had no choice but to skip down the yellow brick road and actually attempt to reach the, ah, wizard. It’s a scary proposition but sometimes a man has to do what a man has to do. So I screwed my courage to the sticking place and called my cable provider.

After working my way through the obligatory phone tree, I only had to wait 10 minutes to reach the wizard. She asked a few pertinent questions, had me dash around a bit in search of serial numbers hidden away on the back of the new component parts, punched a few buttons and, wait for it, nothing – again!

It was time, the wizard suggested to jiggle a few more wires and reboot. I suggested it was time to wave a white flag and send in reinforcements. The wizard laughed and arranged for an elf techie to drop by tomorrow.

Here’s hoping he brings along lots of pixie dust, a fresh magic wand and a whole bunch of patience. Stay tuned!

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