Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Another Technology Challenging Day

Bill and I spent most of this day figuring out how to copy a VHS tape to a DVD recorder. We have a Magnavox dual recorder. Instructions came with it. But, as you probably suspect, it wasn’t easy. I don’t know if it’s me or the instructions. I know most of us older folk have a hard time with the new technology. We probably have a hard time processing all this new information because our heads are full of a lifetime of information. Younger folk have an easier time learning the new technology because their minds are relatively uncluttered. Some might say even say "empty."

Bill used to be an electronics technician with General Electric but he retired 25 years ago. There have been a lot of changes since he retired. He knows circuit boards but not micro chips. He’s pretty good in hooking up the wires but I’m the one who is better at reading instructions and following the steps. Not that it’s easy for me, it isn’t. In fact it’s getting harder and harder. I keep to a minimum the new things I have to learn with my computer and other tech gadgets. I don’t even have an I-pod yet. I don’t plan to get one anytime soon either. I still don't know how to do all the gee gaws on my cell phone either.

So this morning I put an old VHS tape in one side of the machine and a rewritable DVD in the other side. Then I dive into the instruction booklet that came with the Magnavox machine. Right away I can tell the instructions were written by a committee. They’re all over the place. They assume I already have some knowledge (which I don’t.) So I read the instructions and then try to figure out what is logical. At least logical as to how a Chinese would think (since they write most of the instruction booklets.)

Bill was stumped because he was trying to write a title on the DVD before he recorded it. He couldn’t figure out how to do it. I couldn’t either. Then I figured the logical thing would probably be to write the title AFTER the recording. I was right. Bill said that didn't make sense. I told him it doesn't matter, you have to think the way the people who wrote the instruction booklet think.

I started the recording. It was a two hour VHS tape. After two long hours I checked the instruction book again to find out how to title the DVD. First thing I see is the default title already on the DVD which was today’s date. I wanted to erase that so logically I chose “Delete Title.” Well, I deleted the WHOLE DVD. It seems that “Title” is their word for RECORDED DVD. It turns out that I should have EDITED the title. So I had to record another whole two hours. That I did and then I EDITED the title. Job finished. By now Bill wasn’t talking to me. We don’t work well together. Never have. It’s like two guys dancing together. We’re both trying to lead. But we got it done.

We’re going to take a break from recording our VHS tapes to DVD’s for now. But I’m glad I know how to do it now. This is another project for my retirement, to record all of my VHS tapes. I have literally several hundred VHS tapes. Thank God I stopped taking videos years ago and concentrated on taking digital pictures. Now the next project is to transfer all my negatives (and I do have all my negatives since I started taking pictures when I was a kid) and slides to digital format. I have that machine. I haven't even taken its plastic cover off of it yet. I have to give my poor brain a rest before I attack another instruction book again. And when Bill is talking to me again.


  1. Ron,

    I don't think the problem is all age. My son, who has always had a knack for figuring things out, finally got our DVR to record stored programs on the Cable, but he spent hours working on it and ot still gives an erronious message about formatting each time. My parents have a couple guys, who know these things, come and install for them, and it took three such guys to figure out how to get their last DVR to actually work.

    I use to be pretty good with these gadgets myself, use to help others, but I don't even want to tackle them these days.

    It is as you say, the instructions often assume you have an engineering degree from MIT and they use technical terms as if everyone has them on the tip of their tongue.

    I particularly hate when the instructions have been written to cover three or four different models and say things such as "plug framwatt cord in diobe z6 (unless you are using model s1856, 1857 or the one with the light blue, not the dark blue, left-handed widget knob); otherwise turn machine around three times and find the samhill thanger control..."

    Still, I prefer the instructions that come with the step-by-step written out rather than some instructions that show only pictures. The pictures are used for the illiterate among us, but often are difficult to interpret for those of us who can actually read.


  2. Again Lar, you're right on the mark with your analysis. I think I'm as smart as your average bear, maybe more so in some instances. But sometimes these "directions" just don't seem logical. Part of the problem is what you said, the directions have been written for several different models. First you have to find out what model you have.

    Then the directions assume you already have a basic knowledge of certain technical aspects of their equipment. Most of the time I have no knowledge of their equipment.

    Another problem is that they put in so many different options, more than I will ever need. When I'm using the Word program in Microsoft all I want to know how to do is type the text, spell check, grammar check and address the envelope. I don't need the Paint command of any of the other several dozen commands. Who uses all of those commands anyway?

    Another problem is with the cell phone. Basically all I want to do to make a call, receive calls, and have an address book with saved phone numbers. I don't need to take a picture with my cell phone or play games on it. What's that all about anyway?

    I dread having to read instruction manuals (when you can get then and that's another whole story). But sometimes I have no other choice but to plow through them if I want to learn how to do a particular function. In this case all we want to do is copy the content of our VHS tapes to a DVD. Why is it necessary to jump through all those hoops? Why?