The Godfather: Peter Corris: I, Luddite
The Luddites, protesters in 19th-century England who smashed mechanised weaving devices in factories, have been given a bad name. They were, historians have argued, proto-unionists whose complaint was more against factory owners’ attempts to drive down workers’ wages, rather than against machines themselves. Nevertheless, the word has come to signify stubborn resistance and hostility to technological change and, with some justification, I have been accused of being one.
When Jean acquired a word processor, I was dismissive. ‘It won’t write the book for you,’ I said, and persisted with my electric typewriter. It was a few years later, when introduced to the Osborne computer, that I became a convert to word-processing and have embraced it ever since. Did I ever apologise to Jean? I hope so but I’m not sure.
Similarly, I resisted automatic transmission, arguing that such driving was not driving at all. Driving licences gained in an automatic car were then restricted to that transmission unless the driver also passed a test in a manual vehicle. I approved.
I was apt to cite the case of a bank robbery in the US foiled because the perp could not drive his hijacked vehicle. ‘It takes an honest man to handle a stick shift,’ a cop said. Eventually I was converted, although I still consider it a demerit that you can’t jump-start an automatic by rolling it.
A few years ago a representative from Vision Australia, a computer expert, came to help me deal with my failing eyesight by showing how a magnification technique worked. I found it confusing and struggled on without it. Recently, with the vision worse, he came again and once more patiently took me through it. This time, I got it and am profoundly grateful. I no longer have to call Jean in to read my emails and can blow up documents to readable size and find the cursor.
Jean described me to the Vision Australia guy as ‘technologically … challenged’. Harsher words could have been used.
For some years, as I complained about my difficulty in watching television, Jean suggested that we get a set with a bigger screen. Mulishly, I resisted. I said it was a matter of clarity not size, but I think a certain snobbishness lay behind my refusal. Weren’t giant screens … well, somehow vulgar?
At Jean’s insistence when we moved house, we ventured into Bing Lee and I now enjoy being able to watch sport and certain other programs, particularly documentaries with a narrative, on the big screen. I’ve missed things through my intransigence.
So I came along slowly through the later decades of the last century and the early ones of this, perhaps more of a sluggard than a Luddite. I eventually learned how to download books to my Kindle after being reliant on Jean for years and am now trying to master downloading audiobooks to my tablet, again having had Jean do it for far too long. I’ll get there, but whether I can master the voice-recognition mobile phone is another matter.