I am a computer engineer by degree. You might think that makes me proficient at modern technology, at gadgetry. If in fact you thought this I’ll grant you an opportunity to make a retraction; while the use of computers and specialized electronic devices abounds in computer engineering, the study itself does not confer any worldly skills of the sort an outsider might expect.

Perhaps you might now think that a correlation still exists, but it is by association and not causation – that self-identifying as a computer engineer implies technological prowess. The construction of this suggestion belies the innocence it pretends; clearly I intend more deception!

That is the case: I am terribly inept at popular electronics. I browse Facebook with the mouse at arm’s length, leaning back in my chair squinting, as if by distance I can avoid the complexies contained within. I punch at the buttons on my phone with thick fingers, grunting the rude language of prehistoric man. Sweat drips down my sloped forehead as I confront a television’s remote control. Befuddling.

With the proper time and equipment I could certainly construct a mobile phone of some worth. But once constructed, my lack of ability to use the same would convince one not having read the previous sentence that I am a man that does not belong in this time. The watcher would shake his head; “give this man a rock and a stick with which to hit it – modern technology pains his primitive brain.”

What is the cause of this deficiency? I don’t know. I am simply much more comfortable working with abstract mathematical constructs than with an MP3 player. Unfortunately I am too young to draw on the “absent-minded professor” image or to take on a Knuth-like ascetism about the subject matter with which I work. For the time being I will simply scratch my head with a crooked finger and continue carving my research into convenient rocks.

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