Differences aren’t that different (but they aren’t the same)


An essay, started in three parts…

Part 1…

I have this theory about progress.

Usually applies to technology, but the framework fits several categories. And, because we all like to laugh, it can be summed up in a joke:

The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.” (I’m not citing this, as I’ve seen several possibilities, but never anything definitive and I have no clue where or when I first heard it. I think it’s become classic enough, and almost cliched, that you understand.)

With that established, here’s the theory: I often find that those that make the biggest splashes in new areas are not actually the ones that did the first work in that area.

The theory isn’t perfect, and it’s certainly not exact, and it probably should be referred to as a concept instead of a theory. Whatever. I ask you… all of you that have, or had, or at least know of DirecTV and Dish Network… what is PrimeStar?

It’s kind of a trick question, since I believe much of the business that was PrimeStar eventually was sold to DirecTV, but the idea remains. Twenty-five years ago, more or less, PrimeStar was the first massive attempt at a breakthrough satellite television group. There had been renegades in the field previously, and humungous dishes set up in backyards around the country, but the company that really made the first advances in trying to shift consumers from cable to satellite that most folks were aware of was… PrimeStar.

They didn’t make it. People were aware of it. People didn’t create a tidal wave of interest and sign up with them. Now though, look at that, we have DirecTV and Dish Network. The business area survives.

The reason I suppose theory doesn’t work as a description is because it isn’t always the first handing off to the second followed by success. Sometimes the second has to hand off to the third. Sometimes one that seemed passed sticks around. Tests of permanence and accuracy fail or blur. But theory or no, as a concept…

Nintendo explodes, then PlayStation and Xbox take over. We still see Nintendo though, don’t we?

Anyone heard of WordPerfect?

WordPerfect still exists. And the fact that so many of you (1) use Word, and, (2) are surprised WordPerfect is being released in new and updated formats… yeah, we are building on that concept.

Part 2…

My parents have cell phones.

Not exactly a shocking statement. Cell phones are fairly common these days.

The fun part of the statement comes from the idea of parents and technology. As most of us know, for assistance with anything new, look to the generation the follows. Parents with questions call children.

My parents have cell phones and a computer and know about streaming services. They even use them. Ahh… but when they have questions…

My cell phone rings. (Or, the grandchildren. They love to ask the grandchildren. Bragging usually becomes involved when the stories are retold. (And rightly so.))

Part 3…

Funny thing about Word and iPhones so on. Open them up, use them… or those made under a different brand name… and they feel so… so…


Yeah. Familiar.

If you used WordPerfect as your choice twenty or twenty-five or whatever years ago, you could sit down at a computer that only offered Word and begin to work. You’d understand that you could change fonts and adjust font sizes, or play with bold, italics and colors. Things might not be identical… can’t be, since we are talking about big companies with lots of attorneys… and yet they are similar enough that you can work it out.

Once you accept that there has to be a way to justify the text edges, the rest is simply finding that way. Word or WordPerfect or something else, there will be differences… and there be a lot that feels the same.

Bit of a summary…

I’m not someone that jumps on the latest and greatest technology with amazing speed. Give me a cell phone that makes calls, handles text messages, and can take a picture… not looking for much more than that.

During four years of my using the same smartphone, my parents updated theirs. And the models they added managed to fit snugly in between the one I first had and the one I have now.

Anyone using a Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel or Apple iPhone have experience with earlier and later model types? Care to explain how smoothly modifications from one edition to another work?

If you have the iPhone 4 and someone else has the iPhone 6, I can pretty much guarantee you some headaches in problem solving. Looks the same. Feels the same. But there are big differences along the way.

And then the ribbon on top…

Dad called me the other day.

He was having problems with his laptop. It had been a while since he had fired it up, and he decided it might be time to get some updates sorted out. Plus, while he had it opened and running and a bit of time that particular afternoon, he figured it might be nice to get some things organized to his preferences. And with that, he set off to look over his internet favorites and get a bookmark or two (or more) placed.

The frustrations pushed him to his phone.

The main computer he uses has Internet Explorer as his primary browser of choice. He doesn’t need anything fancy… doesn’t surf the web for anything fancy… and falls into his habits and comfort zones established over time. Fair enough.

He was having troubles though, because even though he realized he had a different versions of the browser on the computer and the laptop, and the laptop was working on newer software, nothing was even close to where it should be. He couldn’t find anything.

I tried to talk him through it, but everything I suggested brought on the same reaction.


Did he see this symbol? Could he right-click on this part of the screen and select this option? Could he…

No… no… no.

My talking about it over the phone while walking around the garage picking up some other stuff wasn’t working. Finally, I headed to my office. While walking there, I asked him to take a picture of his screen so I could look at it and attempt to guide him with us sort of seeing at the same thing. And with that picture he sent, I began to grasp our communication problems. Because the Internet Explorer he had opened wasn’t like any Internet Explorer I had ever seen.

Turned out… it shouldn’t have been. We quickly worked out it was Microsoft Edge. You know… that other Microsoft product for web browsing. One that also happens to use a stylized E as a symbol.

It’s a crazy world out there. Supposed to be getting easier, and, for the most part it is. But it’s certainly no less frustrating. All we can do is take a deep breath, step back to slightly alter our perspective, and hopefully realize that the answer is there. It just might look a little different.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com