The kids call me Techie Nana.
So why can’t I find the “on” button?
In the old days there were two buttons, on and off. They were basic like vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup. Then we upgraded.
On and off morphed into a “power button”. Wikipedia calls it a power symbol. As technology went global, someone decided that English words should be replaced by the numbers 0 and 1. You didn’t have to speak the language, only read the figures. Usually they were put on switches – press 0 and it was off; press 1 and it was on. How simple was that?
Like so many things in life, we slipped into a continuum (range or series between two extremes). On and off translated into concepts like restart, power, standby, and hibernate. 0 and 1 were stylized into a single new icon:
You can find on everything from condom wrappers to t-shirts, cars to tattoos. It’s been modified, systemized, and colorized. As former Democratic Senator Paul Tsongas said, “we are a continuum”.
Take that, Mr. Trump.
Consider the muscle of power buttons. They’re the immigrants of the digital world. They move, change names, shift identities, and ignore us. In some cases they wear Harry Potter invisibility cloaks – like the round, unmarked circle on IPhones and IPads. Tap the dark circle, it reads your fingertip, and leaps into life.
Nowadays it’s cool to secret on electronic gadgets, devices, and computers. We play hide-and-go-seek in the humble continuum once known as on and off.
What could be better? We’re secure against thieves – cyber, non-cyber, and grandkids searching for new games.
The next generation of challenges to on and off are here – like my front-loading washing machine. I have to turn it off to get it on. My stovetop is worse – I have to off it before I can power it to boil water.
Boiled water was never so complicated.
Many of the new words for on and off echo the days when bad turned good and sick became cool. There’s shut down, start up, sleep, and wake. If everything freezes you can remove your battery (not always possible) or restart your Wi-Fi (risky). If all else fails, pat your device, take two aspirin, and reboot in the morning.
The latest advance does away with completely. If you can’t find a button in the dark recesses of plastic, it may not be there. Shift to newer approaches like Paul Marcarelli.
He was the guy in the now-ancient Verizon Wireless commercial. Wearing horn-rimmed glasses, he wandered through a signal wasteland looking for a better cell phone connection, pleading:
Can you hear me now?
Marcarelli, on-off, and have all evolved. The actor, after earning millions from Verizon Wireless, is now the Sprint spokesman happily reporting,
Every network is great. I switched to Sprint . . . Can you hear that?
Similarly, voice activated devices have replaced .
Alexa, Google, Siri, Cortana: Can you hear me? What’s the weather?
Fingerprint scanners are everywhere and facial recognition scanners are emerging like selfies.
What’s an AFL-er to do?
Mourn the days of on and off? Put to rest simple English? Call tech support with the evocative, “how do I turn him on?”
There’s only one guaranteed solution. Ask the nearest kid. She’ll know.