New High Tech Old Man

        I’m a bit conflicted about new high-tech. I often like last year’s technology; if nothing else it only costs pennies on the dollar, and I figure we’ve been around and done fine for tens of thousands of years without even the old tech gadgets. I drove my first truck a quarter million miles, and only traded when my daughter went to college and I feared it wouldn’t make the trip. My second one is just now broken in at 100K miles.

        I was the first kid on the block to have a cell phone, though. It was in a large bag that sat in the floorboard of my truck. At the time, the only other guy I knew who had a car phone was James Bond. I found the cell phone to be a great convenience. Before it I knew the location of every pay phone on the route to the hospital. I often had to stop in the middle of the night to field calls, and carried a large bag of quarters everywhere I went. I joked the heavy bag served a two-fold purpose; it was great if I needed to make a call or I could use it to bonk a thug on the head in the middle of the night while I was on the phone. I never had much use for people who sought to disrupt the doctor biz.       

        I kept that bag phone almost a decade, and only got into the ones that’d clip on your belt when the kids started to use them. I always took the hand me down phone in the family, and my contact list is a patchwork quilt of all who came before me. Not only does if have everyone from bass players to neurosurgeons, but also all my son’s old girlfriends and my daughter’s entire Girl Scout troop. For a long time I never used the contact feature of my phone; I just dialed up whoever I wanted from memory. It was only a couple of years ago when my wife saw me dial that I learned the thing had all those stored in a data bank.

       I used my old reliable Olympus OM 1, which was a manual camera, until the shutter broke and I couldn’t find anyone who knew how to fix it. Film was hard to find too. The digital cameras are easy to use, but somehow don’t seem to allow as much artist freedom; maybe I’m just old-fashioned.  

       I’ve not seen much need to trade for a smart phone, but I didn’t want a dumb one either, and settled on a hybrid that’ll let me tether to the Net when I need to. It’s easier for me to see my laptop screen than all those little buttons, and the thing didn’t temp me to waste time during the day when I need to see my patients, in the evenings when I’d rather play the mandolin, or the early mornings when I prefer to write.

        I’m conflicted about high-tech in medicine too. I’ve seen enormous personal benefit from modern cataract surgery, but when I had mine I opted for the technique with a twenty year track record rather than the latest one that may replace it over the next decade. It’s like they say in the army. “You don’t want to be first in line, but you don’t want to be last either.”

        There have been some fine tech advances in heart work, but we don’t do much better with solid cancers than we ever have, and I believe music soothes far more than the latest nerve pill. I don’t find high-tech does all that much for woes of the heart, except for the cardiovascular kinds. John Starling is an ENT doc who was the lead singer with the original Seldom Scene, a great bluegrass band. He sang one on his “Southern Train” LP called “Heart Trouble.” It goes, “heart trouble, there’s nothing the doctor can do…heart trouble…all from loving you.” I’m sure Dr. Starling would concur; no pills are effective for those ills. 

        But you gotta hand it me. I’m pretty well tech adapted for an old fellow. Not only is “The Mandolin Case” on Amazon, but we just went on Kindle, and even went to #1 in that format’s Country Book category for a few days. I guess this fall I’ll curl up in a hammock at Indie’s cabin and cozy up with the latest electronic book. I can be a new high-tech old man when it’s called for.

Dr. B

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6 Comments on “New High Tech Old Man”

  1. danny fulks Says:

    How much do you trust PET and CT scans?

  2. drtombibey Says:


    They can be helpful, but are way overused. Sometimes they lead you on a wild goose chase that hurts people with the interventions that are used to track down a questionable abnormality.

    Sometimes you find things and it seems like they lived longer, but in reality it might have only been “lead time bias;” we just knew they had the condition earlier and knew of it for a longer period of time, but they still died about the same age they would have.

    I am reminded of one old doctor who always worried every time we had a big snowstorm. He said he was afraid people would figure out they really didn’t need us doctors!

    Every once in a while though, you pick up something by accident and save somebody’s bacon.

    Doctoring is a complicated crazy business, but you have to try and stay as intellectually honest as you can about what’s true; sometimes it’s hard to know, though.

    Dr. B

  3. I approve of technology, but personally? I’ll never exchange ink and paper books for a Kindle or any other kind of electronic reader. They’ve got no soul, no smell of books, no sensory feeling like that of turning a page or holding a heavy book up… They’re just not the same! I’m a tech-savvy girl, but that’s one respect in which I’ll always be old-fashioned.

    • drtombibey Says:


      I’ll probably get a Kindle to travel with, but I also won’t get rid of my many books I have on the shelves at home. I like the way they feel and they smell good too.

      Dr. B

  4. inkspeare Says:

    I am conflicted about technology as well. I try to keep up but sometimes, it is just too fast for me, way too fast. However, it is always good to be informed about it, even when I don’t have a clue on how to use some gadgets. For the most part, I manage well, other items I just don’t see the use for – at least in my case. I enjoyed your post a lot.

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