Well maybe ‘hate’ is too strong a word. Maybe I should say I am extremely annoyed with young people. And maybe it’s not even young people I’m annoyed with. It’s whoever it is that is responsible for the fact that I can’t read anything anymore. It’s whoever it is that thinks that just because electronic devices are getting smaller, it makes sense that the words on them to tell us how to turn them on and turn them off and change channels and things like that should get smaller. I assume it’s young people, because old people like me know how stupid this is.
In our living room there is a small CD player connected to a couple speakers that mostly gets used around this season to play Christmas CDs. It’s the first week after Thanksgiving, and I thought I should play some Christmas music. Then I rediscovered why I didn’t listen to much Christmas music last year. It is completely impossible to read any of the little notations by the various buttons.
Now it is certainly a great thing that we can play Christmas music in the living room on such a small device. We don’t need a Victrola. We don’t need a hi-fi. We don’t need a stereo. We just need a little thing smaller than a 78 record of Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas’’, smaller even than a 45 of Elvis singing “Blue Christmas”. But the fact that the instrument is tiny, doesn’t mean that the instructions on it have to be. A CD player is plenty large enough to have decent size letters on it. The transistors inside (or whatever we have now inside of things instead of transistors) are presumably microscopic. There’s no reason the print that is supposed to communicate to me how to turn it on or off, or skip a song, or turn the volume up, needs to be microscopic too.
Maybe CD players and the IPODs and such that are replacing them are all designed and manufactured for young people, with their apparently perfect vision, in mind. Still, you would think the things that mostly old people enjoy would exhibit reasonably sized print. Not so. I enjoy doing the acrostics that the New York Times puzzle page makes available every Sunday or so. I don’t think anyone under fifty knows what an acrostic is. They don’t put new ones up all that often, but at my age you can do the same one every couple of weeks and you don’t remember any of the answers so it works just fine. So you would think they could be old-codger-friendly. But some idiot —could it be Will Shortz? —has decided that the clues should be in some very tiny font. No doubt some young person could figure out how to make the clues larger, but I can’t. The usual buttons to make the print on a webpage bigger don’t work. They just make the stuff around the puzzle bigger. The same idiot in charge of the fonts is presumably also responsible for having the whole thing in various shades of green. Green is supposed to be easy on the eyes. It so easy on my eyes, they just give up.
What works best when I do the acrostics is to lie on my back in bed and scoot the laptop up until the keyboard is about even with my chin. Then I can make out the print. But of course it’s not very easy to type in answers in this position.
I think the computer world needs an old person’s Bill of Rights. Actually, it would be a very simple Bill of Non-Rights. No one has the right to sell a product that has print on it so small that I can’t read it. I would happily spend half a day at the Bureau of standards so they could decide exactly what this means. But that’s assuming I could get there. I won’t use my Iphone to get there, that’s for sure. It has an amazing program that coughs up a street map with a circle for my location. This is just miraculous. But unless you can see the name of the streets you are on, it is of limited utility. Not only is the print extremely small, but also the program likes to put colored lines that show you how to get from A to B, which unfortunately cover up the names of the streets that run from A to B.
I’ve got an old 78 Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas”. I can hold it at arm’s length and still read the print on the little circular label in the middle. I’ve got a collection of typewriters going back to the turn-of-the-century. All the keys are perfectly legible even to an old fart like myself. All I want is modern technology and old-fashioned fonts.