Technical Difficulties

Thanks to Ruth Franklin, I see this week-old NYT piece on the text-messaging generation gap.

For the most part, it’s what we’ve all come to love and expect from inane Times trend pieces, but this section is truly baffling:

At first, John Pence, who owns a restaurant in Portland, Ore., was unsure about how to relate to his daughter. “I didn’t know how to communicate with her,” Mr. Pence said. “I had to learn.” So he took a crash course in text messaging — from Savannah [his daughter]. But so far he knows how to quickly type only a few words or phrases: Where are you? Why haven’t you called me? When are you coming home?

I suppose I can accept that someone would be confused about the technical process of text messaging — figuring out how to navigate a phone’s menus in order to send an SMS is usually fairly easy, but perhaps not intuitive for everyone.

But how, if I might ask, can anyone understand the process but be confused about how to type more than a few phrases? This seems to me rather like understanding how to how to write in English and how to send an email but being confused by the prospect of typing anything more than a limited number of pre-determined sentences. Once you’ve learned how to type one phrase on a number pad, what makes any additional phrases more difficult? Is the subject really a total technical illiterate, or is this bad reporting? Is there something I’m missing?