Language Barriers

A dongle.
Source: Unicorn-bi.com

Have you seen my dongle? I can’t seem to find it.”

Gorgeous stared warily back at me, convinced that she was being subjected to yet another sophomoric innuendo from our junior high days, some 50 years prior. If anything, the last year has only increased the lengths to which I will stretch for imbecility. Not this time, though. I really didn’t know where the dongle was.

She has no idea what a dongle is, nor does she want to know.

The dongle is for my wireless mouse and it was laying somewhere on the floor. As shown in the above picture, they can be quite tiny objects.

I have two dongles, one for my mouse and the other for my external wireless keyboard. They each plug into a USB bus, which is connected to a just-purchased USB 3.1 Type-C to Type-A adaptor. In turn, the adaptor is plugged into one of the two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports located on the side of a new Mac Air, also just-recently purchased.

The adaptor is crucial because the laptop, with all of its new technology, no longer directly accepts the USBs of older computer devices I own and still wish to use.

Did you follow any of that? My apologies if it was a might jargony. Or maybe it just bored you to tears. And to think that only a few posts back your humble blogger was worried about being seen as a mansplainer. Now, however, I find myself in the quasi-emasculating position of desperately trying to understand what all of these technical gizmos are, and how I can make use of them.

I do thankfully know what a dongle is. But I should also admit that for the past few years I’ve been referring to the ones I have as “thingies.”

Before you ask, I use these two peripherals with the laptop that sits on my desk. I do realize that this makes it all rather redundant: laptops do have keyboards and pads for pointing and clicking after all. My reason for using them is that I’ve simply never been completely in love with the laptop design. I do like its portability, of course, especially on those occasions when I have it out at the couch. But while sitting at a desk, I’ve added the mouse and external keyboard for more a “desktop-style” experience. You can take the retiree out of the office, but apparently you can’t take the office out of the retiree.

Upon coming home from the Apple Store and unpacking the laptop, then running all of the required setup operations, etc., I finally tried to connect my mouse and keyboard. Unfortunately neither would fit because they each use yesterday’s technology. You know, the one from like only two years ago. The new computer’s ports are instead designed only for today’s latest and greatest. So I had no choice but to head out and find a store that could offer up some kind of adaptor to connect everything.

As a non-techie, this is my worst nightmare. It means having to face some computer sales nerd at a store and put into words exactly what I need.

Except I never end up saying anything correctly. It all comes out as mush.

This is what makes me miss Radio Shack. Not the over-priced, unfriendly version of the 1990’s and 2000’s — the one that eventually declared bankruptcy and closed all the locations. That particular era of the store I never officially recognized. No, the version I really miss is the one I began patronizing as a kid in the late sixties and all through the seventies and eighties. That was when you’d find nearly every miscellaneous cord, plug, or adaptor always coated in a generic gray color; it had been bought and returned at least once, jammed back into its original plastic bag and haphazardly stapled a couple of times at the top to resell again. My friends and I fully accepted this practice. A young guy with an ill-fitting tie behind the counter knew exactly where each item sat in the shop, and he would quickly rummage through the right bin to find you what you wanted. The place always looked like your uncle’s messy garage.

The best thing about that particular era of Radio Shack is that you never needed to know the precise terminology to describe what you wanted. The guys-in-ties just always knew.

Radio Shack salesman
Source: Pinterest

Nevertheless, my mind and body firmly in this particular century and decade, I drove over to the local big box office supply store in the hopes that I would find what I needed. A friendly salesman found me wandering the aisles and asked if he could help. I explained how I needed to find an adaptor to connect my two older devices to a brand new Mac.

Lightening to USB or USB-C?,” he asked.

I just stared back. I know that a Lightening is Apple-speak for a plug, but in all honesty I really don’t know my Lightenings from my Thunderbolts, and I’m always at pains to admit it. I’d like to someday meet the bright-eyed guy who thought up these rainstorm terms and sit and sneer at him for a few minutes. If they’d have named these things after famous writers or singers I’d have a fighting chance.

You just gotta connect your Springsteen-A to the Angelou port and that should hold you. Debit or credit, please?

Fortunately the salesman in the big box store took immediate pity on me. He walked me over to a shelf and together we figured out which adaptor I needed. There was no audible sigh of frustration, no squint of judgment. The man was roughly my age; he no doubt had patronized the same Radio Shacks I visited back in the day. For once there was no technical language barrier. I didn’t have to say “thingie.”

Back at home, I hooked up my mouse and keyboard to the new computer– the same keyboard on which this post is being written — and the Mac operating system immediately recognized the two, courtesy of the Bluetooth company.

Bluetooth. What kind of name is THAT anyway? Now yellowtooth, that I might understand.

Until next time…

32 thoughts on “Language Barriers

  1. Wow, congrats for actually finding what you needed! I remember those old Radio Shacks (that commercial is priceless) and the geeky young men who worked there. I’m afraid that I haven’t moved much past the “thingie” stage, although I did know what a dongle was. Times like this, I really wish I had a grandchild to explain stuff to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I saw the word ‘dongle’ I knew this could be going in a scary direction. There’s nothing worse than trying to communicate with a computer person who speaks techie gibberish. You were lucky to find the sales guy you did.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had to learn about this recently too as a new MAC owner who wanted to use a mouse. What a relief there was a work-around. Also thankful my husband has his own Radio Shack inventory in his office (haha!) Now working through the mystery of no jack and no free ear buds in the latest iPhone!! Very relatable post Marty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha. Your husband might relate to the fact that I literally just ordered a few parts related to all of this that I actually don’t need at the moment. I’m getting them for one of those upcoming “just in case” moments! Enjoy the strange new listening experience on that new phone, Tracey!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Now, I know why we haven’t heard from you because you’ve been busy with your dongles and your thingies. 🙂 I loved this post and learned some ‘stuff’ by googling it. I have a fit bit dongle plugged in, and I bet it wouldn’t fit a new Mac either. So, thanks for the explanation.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lol. I would have had the same thought as your wife when I first read “dongle”! When I don’t call them “things”, I call them “keys”. The main thing is not to lose them, Marty, they’re very important! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have a new Mac Air as well (may my previous one rest in peace). I am okay with its keypad and its tracking pad, but…I have that audacity to own a non-Apple phone! Apple and anything non-Apple tend not to play together nicely. I definitely feel your pain with nerve-wracking tech language.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Congrats on the new computer, Donna. That does make it challenging when your phone is not an Apple. But I can also vouch for mass confusion when they do match because all the integration layers never end. Messages to one go to all, iPad included. There’s probably a way to control that, but G-d help me I’ve not figured out how. I just deal with everything beeping all the time. 😩

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  7. Back before phones were also computers (!) and connecting with reliable internet was a big deal; when we were living between homes and on the road alot (2009-2012) we owned our own dongle to generate our own protected internet connections on our laptops. A kind of early form of a personal ‘hot spot’.
    Not that I’m trying to impress you or anything – IN FACT – for most of that time I called it the ‘donnagle’ to my husband’s deep embarrassment.
    Oh and even for a non-nerd like myself, I miss Radio Shack because that’s one slice of diversity that has been all but erased from the face of the earth…I never felt shamed for not knowing anything when I needed to go there.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sometimes I really hate technology. I want everything to just work and it’s frustrating when it doesn’t. And the constant updates that force obsolescence on us. I discovered during the pandemic the camera on my laptop isn’t working and now the fan is making noise. I need to visit my favorite techie guys. Ugh!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree. I was careful here to walk a fine line in not being too critical of tech changes and “improvements” because that’s the nature of the beast after all. There are always going to be upgrades. But it doesn’t mean we have to like them! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. debscarey

    Ha ha! Dongles & ports – you’re talking the type of language I have to in my day job 😀 Fortunately, I know I’m not a techie, so I’m the best kind of person to talk to other non-techie peeps which, surprisingly, a vast number of our (IT department) clients are! I considered going over fully to Apple but held back on the desktop as our in-house techie is never keen to provide technical support to his colleagues at any time, so moving to Apple would’ve had him black-list me!

    On reading back there are FAR too many exclamation points. I apologise – I’ve been “speaking” online to my colleague who uses vast strings of them throughout.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t be silly, Deb! It just means that you’re spirited! My most spirited blogging friend, even! Okay, sorry, I was being snarky — except for the friend part obviously. 🙂

      OMG, your in-house techie is never keen to provide technical support to his colleagues. That brings back memories for me of similarly-minded IT people at my previous jobs. Every time there was a automation problem, it was sometimes easier to just live with it rather than be yelled at. Solidarity for sure on that one!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Immediate smile and of course I know what a dongle is. It is that little thingamajig important to make the doohickey work properly.

    I also recall you mentioning how you have a new computer, Marty. Believe me, I get it. Same thing happened when I upgraded my computer last year. My ‘old’ laptop was nine years old which is 89 in computer years. I agree with missing Radio Shack, the nicest, approachable and most helpful (nerds) experts in this field.

    All’s well that ends well, Marty. Voila, another fun and entertaining post! Thank you! 🤓

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had to count on my fingers, but it turns out my previous computer was also nine years old, Erica. As my mother would have said, “It doesn’t owe me anything.” My only complaint is that it began to die too quick, and my transition was sort of rushed. I think I got this one just in the nick of time because of the chip shortage; the very next week the local Apple Store was out of stock, and all new orders have a 7-10 day wait.

      Thank G-d for the thingamajigs and doohickeys!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh Marty! I feel your pain! I don’t bother asking anymore! I just go hunting for adapters that I know will fit into my laptop and whatever else! Smart phones are very good at taking photos and then I just compare 😂I’m still using one of those mouse that you connect directly to the laptop. Mine is a USB 2 😂 I hate Bluetooth thingy! I’ve got a direct connection to my printer too but the other day it didn’t work so I had to ummmm resort to Bluetooth /wifi it to my laptop.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honestly, I fear it’s a race against time before I begin to become overwhelmed by everything electronic/digital/etc. For now I’m the fixer and problem-solver in our home. But at some point it’s my nightmare that all of this will go over my head, and we’ll have to start calling in a tech guy every time something goes wrong. Or, perhaps we can just call your husband. 😉

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