The other day, some of my Facebook friends thought I was joking when I asked how to find the taskbar on my computer screen. When I wanted to split the screen, so I could copy my credit card purchases into my Quicken finance managing program, I asked Google how to see two screens and was told to click on the taskbar.

Of course I didn’t know what the taskbar was. You might as well have asked me to name all the parts in a buggy.

I was born into a simpler Maine that existed between the buggy and the computer. There was no running water in the first school I attended, and the only heat came from a woodstove in the middle of the room. Even little kids knew their wood and how to drop a bucket in the well.

At home we had no refrigerator, flush toilet or telephone. Our water was heated by a woodstove. There were water pipes in the firebox that ran to a round copper tank in the corner. Although Max Planck could have easily scribbled out a formula describing the amount of energy that the heat from the burning wood put into the water, the math was not a thing that concerned me then, nor does it interest me now.

When I was a kid, a few men and many women in my neighborhood did not know how to drive a car. Some older people, like my mother, did get a license, but for others, it was a painful process. As a driver’s ed teacher, I spent many hours driving round and round in parking lots with one good friend who couldn’t even steer. Unless she was pulling a con job on the friends who drove her everywhere, she was past the window in which she could learn.

To everything, there is a season. You can be too young to learn to read and too old to master a smartphone. These windows differ from person to person.

When IBM introduced the personal computer in 1981, I was 45 years old. I had been out of high school for 28 years. I had been driving a car for 30 years. If I had stayed in the military, I would have retired six years before.

Ten years after that, I drove over to Waldoboro so Sam Pennington could let me see the mysterious internet on one of the Antique Digest’s computers.

It was around that time I got my first computer. Now a museum piece, it is still in a desk drawer in my office. It ran on a cassette tape and would print addresses on 250 envelopes without recharging. Type the addresses once and get them on tape and you never had to type them again. It was an unbelievable technological advance. As the tape turned, the machine cheeped like a bird, producing one of the most wonderful sounds I ever heard.

I was alone – in my home. Children discuss the new technology with their friends, and computer nomenclature is part of their daily parlance. Even the names of mysterious items that my wife brings home escape my attention. The other day I wrote on my Facebook page: “I learned what a sharpie was this morning. Have you ever heard of a sharpie?”

Over four dozen wags were moved to comment:

“A sharpie is a guy who takes you to the cleaners.”

The Eastport woman who showed me how to make solar water heaters wrote, “About as necessary as duct tape!”

“One of them is a bold felt-tip pen. The other is what birders call a sharp-shinned hawk, a small raptor that flies through wooded areas with ease and snacks on songbirds at birdfeeders.”

Lance said: ”I have a 25′ Bolger leeboard sharpie cat yawl for sale in Kittery Point.”

Fred said: “Don’t use them on things you expect to wipe off. Also, don’t leave them around kids, especially while you’re sleeping.”

A friend who studied for the priesthood in Rome said, “I have always understood it to be an Irish woman with whom one frequently argues, and is likely married to, who is completely consistent in being of the right opinion.”

If you’ve been paying attention you know that a 9-year-old kid might manage to steal his grandfather’s car and make it to the next town just by looking at the GPS – while the old man is still fooling with the buttons on his TV clicker.

Like my friend who wouldn’t learn to drive, I’ve given up trying to keep up. Let the kids have this world. I had mine. Learning the names of all the buttons on my computer is not going to destroy my golden years. An old Maine man can better spend his time in some normal productive endeavor – like learning Italian.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html


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