Surveyin' Da Situation: Gadget Boy

My wife really enjoys teasing me about my interest in technology. She knows I graduated from Michigan Technological University, not some basket-weaving university, yet she always shakes her head when she sees me watching a program about the latest gadget. Whenever she wants to poke fun at me, she'll just smile and call me "G.B."—short for "Gadget Boy." I seem to get called "G.B." a lot. I have to admit that gadgets catch my attention, but I don't think I'm a gadget junky.


I have to be careful, however, whenever I head back to my homeland in the wilds of the far western end of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. For the most part, things up there in the U.P. don't evolve real fast, and people don't like to change unless there is a pretty darn good reason to accept it.

The Blue Button
A year or so ago several of us got together at the camp to do some bird hunting. I volunteered to drive as we headed into town to pick up a few groceries. On the way, someone asked what the blue button on my dashboard was for. I explained it was a way to connect to a service that could help you if you needed it.

"Like how?" the guy asked. I pushed the button to show him how it worked.

After a few seconds a friendly voice greeted us over the speaker and said, "Hello, Mr. Matonich. What can we do for you today?" I asked for directions to the grocery store. We were told not only how to get to the store, but our present location as well. My buddies were pretty impressed at first, but later reasoned that the service really wasn't a whole lot of help since we already knew where we were going, and besides, we certainly knew where we were at the time.

I tried again to demonstrate the system's advantages by locking the doors while we were still driving, then calling the service back. I reported that my doors were locked and asked if they could please unlock them for me. Sure enough, a few seconds later there was a click as the doors unlocked. The boys jumped a little, then one of them decided that he still wasn't really impressed since he never locked his doors anyway, and therefore such a service wouldn't be of much help to him. I quit while I was behind and drove the rest of the way to the store without even setting the cruise control.

Okay, so I am a Gadget Boy. I like my voice-activated cell phone. I carry my palm-top computer everywhere (except to camp). I have the latest digital readout on my wide belt sander in my wood shop, and I'm trying to lower my golf scores by using the latest swing trainer. My son isn't any better. Not only do I have to listen to him tell me about the latest electronic features of just about anything, but now that he is old enough to hunt, he is on top of any new advancement in the firearms and hunting industries and gives me every good reason why he should have it. My buddies at camp always say the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.

Technology Bug Infestations
Curiously enough, there seem to be more "gadget boys" back home lately. When I was at camp this past deer season, I noticed a lot more handheld GPS units on belts, and walkie-talkies appeared to be pretty popular. It seemed everyone had a cell phone. We're even discussing a color AC/DC television with a remote control for camp. I almost fell off my chair one evening when I actually saw one of my buddies pull a laptop computer out of a case and plug it in to charge the battery while the generator was running. I guess even U.P. deer camps have been infested with the technology bug. I was going to ask my buddies why the sudden interest in GPS since they claim they always know where they are and where they're going, but I didn't want to stop the technological momentum. Besides, I kind of like the idea of a color TV at camp. Maybe we could even think about a satellite dish next year. It would sure make those Packer football games come in clearer, and I'll bet I could program the remote to, uh … well … never mind.

And that's the situation as I survey it …


John Matonich is President and CEO of Rowe Incorporated, a civil engineering, surveying, and planning firm headquartered in Flint, Michigan.

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