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Those Abominable New-Fangled Machines
Wednesday, November 9, 2011 • Posted November 10, 2011 10:29 AM

Mondays were wash days when I was growing up. Mom had an old wringer washing machine in the basement where she would spend an entire morning washing clothes and putting each item through the wringer. She had to be careful to avoid popping the buttons off the shirts when she put them through those rollers. When she washed the whites she would pour “bluing” in the rinse water—it was supposed to make the whites whiter. Sunshine or freezing cold, she would hang the clothes, using clothes pins, on the outdoor line to dry.

Ironing was a full-day’s job. There were no permanent-press fabrics back then and no steam irons. She would sprinkle the clothes that needed to be ironed—and just about everything needed it—and then she would roll each piece up and place it in a hamper so the moisture would be absorbed evenly into the fabric. She would then take a hot flat iron, turn on the radio and iron for hours. Besides Mom and Dad, there were five very active boys in the family who got very dirty very quickly and very often.

When automatic washing machines were introduced, Mom wouldn’t think of having one. “There is no way one of those contraptions can get clothes clean,” she declared. It wasn’t until she and Dad moved into a missionary headquarters “home” in Mexico City that she learned to appreciate an automatic washing machine. Once she tried the “abominable” thing, she never looked back at the old wringer washer.

All through my college undergraduate years, I wrote all my research papers on a little Hermes manual typewriter. I remember how I struggled to avoid making typing errors that had to be erased, re-typed or typed over with some kind of corrector tape or covered by white-out.

When I got my first “real” job I was provided an IBM Selectric typewriter that sported a little ball that was covered by all the letters of the alphabet. As one typed, it would jump around really fast and would print with a very light touch of the fingers. I resisted using it because it was so sensitive that I just knew I would make lots of mistakes. Besides, my little manual had served me well all these years, why change now? I eventually did try it and I liked it. My little manual went into storage where it remains until this day.

The IBM evolved over the years until it even included a corrector tape so that one could easily correct any errors by simply typing over the letters. I became quite proficient on the typewriter and figured that nobody would ever improve on it. Then arrived the personal computer. The boss wanted us to learn how to use the things and offered free training. I resisted. I was getting along very nicely on my IBM typewriter, why would I want to use one of those new-fangled things?

Wow! How far we’ve come since those days! We have telephones that can take and transmit pictures, download music, and communicate by voice or by “texting.” Weather is predicted days and even weeks in advance using satellites and books and newspapers are being replaced by access to the World Wide Web. “Typing” and even spelling have almost become things of the past.

Unfortunately, as inevitable as change is, we would do well to take care that we do not become enslaved to the very technologies that are supposedly designed to set us free. “It is wonderful,” said Ian S. Ardern, “to have the means of instant communication quite literally at our fingertips, but let us be sure we do not become compulsive fingertip communicators.

“I sense that some are trapped in a new time-consuming addiction—one that enslaves us to be constantly checking and sending social messages and thus giving the false impression of being busy and productive.

“Electronic games and cyber acquaintances are no lasting substitute for real friends who can give an encouraging hug, who can pray for us and seek after our best interests… I urge each of us to take those things which rob us of precious time and determine to be their master, rather than allowing them through their addictive nature to be the master of us.” (“A Time to Prepare,” Ensign Magazine, Nov. 2011, p.32)

Ah, those abominable machines with all their potential to bless our lives! However, as Elder Ardern went on to say, “Our greatest happiness comes as we tune in…to those things which bring lasting reward, rather than mindlessly tuning in to countless hours of status updates, Internet farming, and countless hours of catapulting angry birds at concrete walls.”

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