Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Stepping into the murky world of upgraded technology

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Greg Peck
Friday, January 10, 2014

My wife, Cheryl, and I rent movies every now and then from a nearby “video” store. We had an older DVD player, but at times we'd be in the middle of a movie when suddenly it would stop. Frustrating. We got a newer player a couple of years ago, but that didn't solve this aggravation. Frequent cleaning of these machines, and asking the video store to clean the discs before we leave the shop, didn't seem to help.

I thought maybe we just needed a better-quality machine. I called a local electronics store and talked to a guy who suggested such discs likely are scratched and that a new player wouldn't solve that problem. From time to time, another issue developed—we could watch the DVD's previews, but then the movie just wouldn't start.

This being the cold season and with bad weather in the forecast, Cheryl and I rented four movies on New Year's Eve. One worked fine, and the next wouldn't start. The third worked fine, and the fourth wouldn't start. I put the first one back in, and it started like before.

“Check this out,” I told Cheryl, figuring it was a disc problem. I inserted a new DVD we had in our collection but not yet played. Surprisingly, it didn't start.

Cheryl wondered how late that electronics store was open. I checked, and we headed out late on New Year's Day. We have a Samsung big-screen TV at least 5 years old and chose a Samsung blu-ray player after discussing it with one employee and figuring the technological upgrade was worth the price, especially when it was on sale. He referred us to another guy who would show us how to install it.

Oh, boy, I thought. This young “tech geek” also told us we'd need to buy a USB cord. My head was spinning as he used a touch-pad universal remote to demonstrate. He told us we'd be using our AT&T wi-fi service to connect the blu-ray machine to the Internet. He kept suggesting that things on the screen wouldn't look exactly like what he was showing us because, of course, our Samsung TV wasn't the same model as the one he was using. Given that the remote looked more like an iPhone than our regular remote, and the fact I'm still stuck in Tracphone cellphone mode, I wasn't optimistic about this setup project.

As we drove home, I was thinking I'd probably need to call stepson Adam to have him try to help us with setup over the phone. Or maybe I'd have to ask technologically savvy coworker Dave VonFalkenstein to stop over and help. If only we knew a teenager in the neighborhood...

I guessed our chances of getting the machine up and running without problems at about 10 percent. I took care of a few other pre-workday chores before sitting down to tackle this project that evening. It was quickly obvious that it wasn't a simple matter of swapping out the cords on the old machine and inserting identical ones on the new machine into the TV, etc., because the USB cord made the electrical connections different. Half the battle turned out to be shoving the cord plugs through the little hole in the back of our wood console. We had to first pull those from the old DVD player out of the way to even stand a chance.

I didn't want to spend an hour or more reading and trying to understand the in-depth directions. After using a flashlight and footstool to obtain the wi-fi password off the little black AT&T box attached to our basement ceiling, I got the blu-ray machine started. The wi-fi connection flashed on the TV screen. I got to a spot where an elaborate keypad was displayed on the screen, and I plugged in the code by punching the numbers on the new remote. When I hit “enter,” however, it just added to the code. I erased it and started over, this time moving the remote arrow and punching the password numbers on the onscreen keypad. But the same thing happened when I hit “enter.”

“How do I get it to accept the password?” I said out loud. Cheryl, seated behind me, suggested I click on the “done” keypad on the screen. I did that, and a miracle happened. It accepted the password, and it appeared we were ready to watch a movie.

I plugged in one of the DVDs that wouldn't start on the old player. We again watched the previews, and then, almost without pause, were watching the movie!

It was a joyous holiday. “But wait,” I told Cheryl. “Let's not celebrate until we're sure we can turn this thing off and get back to regular TV viewing.”

A couple of logical clicks later, a network TV station flicked on. Doing a Tom Hanks “Castaway” impression, I jumped up, arms extended, and shouted, “I have made fire!” Molly the pup, startled by my sudden exuberance, leaped to her feet from her cozy couch nest.

So far, so good. Maybe we got lucky. Or maybe technology is becoming simple enough that even techno dinosaurs can adapt and survive.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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