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home : opinions :   September 30, 2014

1/14/2014 12:10:00 PM
Column: What apps do you use?

Shannon Crawley-Serpette

I’ve always been slow to embrace technology. I used a word processor far longer than anyone else I know. It took me quite a while to understand what that newfangled thing called the Internet was. Years passed before I realized Netflix and a Roku box could save me tons of money and space since I would no longer need to rent or purchase every DVD I wanted to see.

And yes, to everyone’s horror, I still use an antiquated flip-top phone. When I whip that baby out of my purse, I get one of two reactions from people — a condescending, smug little snicker or a look of utter disgust usually reserved for the likes of serial killers and telemarketers. Then it’s my turn to be smug when they brag about how much their phone and data plan cost them — it is far more than I would ever pay for something that is so easily lost or broken.

I have no need for items that are only used for status symbols. My aging car may have almost 200,000 miles on it, but I’ll drive it until it is no longer cost effective to repair.

I’m definitely more of a Trekkie than a techie. As a kid, I was really interested in science fiction and a lot of these new gadgets can do things that were once considered science fiction. But even as I marvel at what these new gadgets and inventions can do, unless they have a practical application in my life there’s no need for me to spend the money and aggravation of learning how to operate them.

So I wasn’t exactly on board when my husband suggested that it was time for us to buy a tablet for Christmas. But I grudgingly agreed to a model that wasn’t too expensive.

Within the first five minutes, I was certain I was right not to embrace the tablet movement. Although I could see our Internet connection on the tablet, it wouldn’t let me select it. After a few screams of frustration and threatening to throw the tablet out the window (which no one believed anyway because apparently you actually have to carry through with threats once in a while to gain any credibility), I called my techie brother who lives five minutes away and strongly suggested he drop everything he had planned for the night to drive to my house to help me. Hearing the aggravation in my voice, he quickly agreed.

Within 10 minutes, he realized it wasn’t my incompetence that was preventing me from setting up the tablet. Turns out, the top portion of the screen wasn’t working. I returned it to the store that night and looked up reviews on the Internet when I returned home.

After learning that particular brand and model was consistently panned by consumers, I ordered another one that had much higher ratings but was slightly cheaper because it had less memory.

When it arrived, I was prepared to be frustrated again. But I was pleasantly surprised when I realized how easy the tablet was to set up and operate. Never having loaded an app before, I couldn’t believe how user friendly the whole quick process was. I also underestimated how much use I would get from apps.

I figured the tablet primarily would be used by my children, but on the first day I was reluctant to give it up. I set up free apps for nutrition tracking, calorie counting and personal finance.

Of course I installed plenty of games for my children. I haven’t had to load a paid app yet, although there have been some requests from the kids.

Once in a while I come across some form of technology that can truly have a positive impact on my life — this is one of those times.

In case I am not the last one in the Illinois Valley to join this century and purchase a tablet, I urge the holdouts to consider it, especially for senior citizens who don’t want to lug around a laptop and want something simple to operate.

Shannon Crawley-Serpette may be reached at (309)364-2268 or

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