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Lament for the typewriter

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There is no place in this world for a Renaissance man," I remarked as the dental hygienist shot deadly nanorays through my jaw.

"And what is it with these people and their weird obsession with my teeth?"

The streaming muzak background only strengthened my argument: technology, once our friend, serves as the new master of unconscious alienation.

I left the dentist's office pondering my brand new receipt which included $75 for something called "scaling." Scaling, I assume, is the process by which they scrape your teeth with a metal hook.

"I could be doing that myself," I blurted out while fumbling at the knobs of my broken car stereo. If they called it "scraping" then I'd pretty much know how to do it. It seems very close to using toothpicks--something they warn vehemently against.

Now I'm not advocating home dental care. Teeth are important.

What I am trying to say is that our increasingly specialized world depends on robots. Not the robots that build cars; I'm talking about the robots that buy cars.

The dentist receded from my mind as I took a quick stock in my car. I have a relatively new car. I've always prided myself on being mechanically inclined. Previous cars in my fleet all required repairs, but now I was driving a machine I couldn't comprehend. It's by far the shiniest car I've ever owned. But it's also the least powerful, least distinctive and the hardest to fix.

Does anyone know how a new car works?

If my Geo's tiny, evil microchip brain that decides fuel to air ratio ever goes haywire, I am screwed. When my pre-1980s cars would breakdown, which was often, I could usually fix it on the spot. I could carry an extra microchip and a computer science manual, but as it goes I have to sit and twiddle my thumbs waiting for a tow truck.

Not everybody can fix their own car but we are now in a system which prohibits ability beyond the narrow scope of bread-winning repetition. Today it's better to concentrate on one thing and hope you can make enough money doing it to pay other specialists to round out your life.

How many people have the desire or space to grow their own garden? How many people bought a new Macintosh computer because of the colour scheme?

For that matter, how many of our parents bought their first computer because they had no choice in the matter? Buy one, the advertisements said, or be left behind twiddling your thumbs as the world goes by.

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