By Scott Baughman
Fair warning, this edition of Technically Speaking is going to be a little different. I mean, it will still be about technology but in a way that is out of the ordinary for my usual tech tips and shopping lists.
This is about learning how to use a spoon.
I know that’s not exactly the most technologically advanced device out there, but at one point in our lives we all needed to learn how to use one. This column is going to be a little bit about that moment for me.
This all started over the Independence Day holiday when my youngest son Joseph noticed a weird factoid about me and my dad. My father, the Reverend Steve Baughman, was sitting next to me eating a delicious peach cobbler made by my step-mother, Mary, when Joseph started giggling. I put my own bowl of cobbler down and looked over at him to ask what was so funny?
“Daddy, you and grandpa eat the same way,” Joseph said. “Like, you even move your mouth the same way over the spoon. Oh, hey, I bet I know why!”
“Why do you think, son?” I asked.
“Because of ‘Mr. DNA’ right?” Joseph replied, referencing an animated character I once showed him to teach him about how genetics work.
“Not quite, son,” I corrected him gently. “It’s true that a lot of what makes me who I am is due to grandpa’s DNA, but not this spoon thing.”
“Well, why do y’all use a spoon EXACTLY the same?” he asked.
That gave me the perfect opportunity to do one of the things I do best – tell my kids a story.
This particular tale involves computers in an interesting way. It begins in 2007, at a science fiction and comic book convention in Atlanta, Georgia called DragonCon. I was attending the gathering of geeks as I often did when the new century was young and although I haven’t been to DragonCon in almost five years now, I still have plenty of fond memories from there.
In this particular instance, I was in the gaming hall, playing an exceedingly nerdy – and fun – card game based on the mother of all Sci-fi franchises, Star Trek! It was the second round of our event and just after I got Captain Kirk and Co. ensconced on the Starship Enterprise, ye olde cell phone (it wasn’t even an iPhone, gasp!) rang and I begged my opponent’s patience when I saw it was dad calling.
“Hello? Dad, is everything ok?” I asked.
“Hi son, I have a question about my computer,” he began.
Long before I convinced my dad to switch to an Apple computer, he would often have trouble with his PC. This, of course, necessitated a call to me. Did I mention this was often?
“I’m trying to read about the Gamecock football team on The State newspaper’s website,” he began. “But it keeps popping up and asking me about cookies. Now, why do they care what kind of snack I’m having?”
I stifled a laugh and explained to my father what a cookie was in Internet parlance. It has nothing to do with snacks, but rather it’s a packet of data that your computer sends via the Internet to the other computer with which it is communicating. He caught on very quickly, because he’s actually really good about doing what I tell him over the phone to fix his PC.
“Then I guess when it tells me to check my java, they don’t care that I do not even drink coffee, do they?” he replied.
It’s true, 11 years ago my dad hated coffee. It wasn’t until he took a vacation to Costa Rica with my late mother and tasted what he calls REAL coffee that he changed his mind about that. I still haven’t seen the light on the java – but now he knows that computer Java is a command program that makes various devices follow a set of instructions.
A few more minutes of him reloading scripts and he was off to the races to read articles about the upcoming season for the football team at the Real USC and thanked me profusely.
After I hung up the phone, my opponent gave me a slow clap of applause.
“Wow, man, you’ve got a lot more patience that me,” he said. “I’d never be able to help my parents out with computers over the phone, they just seem so dense about it. They don’t understand even the simplest thing!”
“Well, look, I could take that attitude with my dad about computers,” I replied. “But there was one day back around 1978 when Rev. Baughman taught me how to use a spoon. I figure, I owe him a few hundred hours of free tech support when it comes to all the benefits he’s given to me over the years.”
I turned to Joseph and added, “And THAT is why grandpa and I use the spoon in the exact same way – because if it weren’t for him I wouldn’t know how to use a spoon at all.”
Joseph paused a moment and then reached for his own bowl of cobbler – and held the spoon just so while three generations of Baughmans enjoyed dessert.
Until next time….download complete!