A short rant about being 39 and not knowing how to work a remote control

I bought a new camera this week.

It’s smaller, neater, smarter and generally better than my old camera, but it’s currently sat in its bag on the table because I am scared of it.

I can switch it on, and take pictures with it, but it has all of these buttons and functions that I just don’t understand. It troubles me.

I tried looking up the manual online, to help me out, but it had lines like this in it:

When using an interchangeable lens with O.I.S. switch (such as H-FS14140), stabilizer function is activated if the O.I.S. switch of the lens is set to [ON].


I tried more slowly, thinking that if I took my time over it, it would make sense.

Still no.

Okay, you might think, maybe I don’t need to actually know about the interchangeable lens thingy, perhaps I’m overreacting, but the trouble is that this terror doesn’t just happen with complex things.

Let’s say we go away to stay somewhere for the weekend. We get there, and we’re settling in. I’ve put the kettle on, unpacked my suitcase, and perhaps I want to watch a bit of TV. I pick up the remote control and BAM!

I might as well be sat at one of those big air traffic control desks. I literally have no idea where to start. All the buttons look the same – they are all staring at me, laughing silently to themselves because I don’t know which one to press and it scares me. I feel like if I look away, they might all quickly change places, just for jokes.

remote controls

Seriously, look at these things – does anyone in the whole world actually know what every single button does? Do they even all have a function, or are they just put there by people who understand technology to keep the rest of us in our place??

Is this just me?

Douglas Adams had it about right when he wrote this in The Salmon of Doubt:

“I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

This is so true isn’t it? A newborn baby could probably download the Ocado app and do an online shop if you left them near a iPad for a few minutes but me, I’m 39 and destined to have the same phone for the rest of my life because I can’t bear to think about learning how to use a different one.

I feel especially unnerved by all of this because I have made myself a whole bloody career out of digital technologies. Well, that’s all bound to go tits up isn’t it, if I can’t even switch on Sky in a stranger’s house?? Who is going to want to work with me if I start saying things like ‘I have 11,000 followers on The Facetube’??

I’m doomed.

Does anyone else feel like they’ve lost their grip on the modern world??

Image – Goran Bogicevic/shutterstock



  1. ElizM
    16 May, 2017 / 9:36 pm

    Completely with you on that one, which makes you totally normal in my world. My old blackberry barely has any face left, bits of it keep falling off and I have to buy new batteries for £2.99 on Amazon periodically so that I don’t have to keep it permanently on the charger in order to speak on it – which makes it not strictly a mobile mobile phone – and 3 times I’ve upgraded and have 3 much more modern phones in my bag/drawer/still in the box but don’t know how to use them! My 13 year old daughter has exactly the same phone as my newest still-in-the-box phone and she worked hers out in about 5 minutes. She keeps threatening to teach me how to use mine but I’m far too scared of letting go of the old blackberry. Ridiculous but true

    • Jo Middleton
      17 May, 2017 / 12:52 pm

      Not ridiculous at all – it’s exactly how I feel about the camera! What has become of us??

  2. Claire
    16 May, 2017 / 10:59 pm

    It’s not just you! We got a new and completely different Sky remote six months ago and I’m still struggling to remember what the buttons do. I can never figure out how to turn on the tv at my mum’s house WHERE I USED TO LIVE. Oh, and I have to look in the manual to figure out how to change the clock in my car every six months. Meanwhile my 20 month old already knows how to unlock my phone and swipe between screens on the iPad. Sigh.

    • Jo Middleton
      17 May, 2017 / 12:51 pm

      I do all of these things!! The other day I had to drive somewhere in my home town, where I lived for about TWENTY YEARS, I couldn’t remember where anything was!

  3. Jo James
    17 May, 2017 / 5:33 pm

    This couldn’t have come at a better time, my head hurts this week as we have moved offices at work and set up all the equipment ourselves! PS I have a camera …its 12 years old this year and I still don’t know how it works !

  4. 17 May, 2017 / 6:54 pm

    im an avid YouTube watcher…. if I need to know something (where you might need to read a manual first) I find it quicker (time precious) to punch the query into YouTube and eureka there’s someone out there who knows the thing you don’t know, and has kindly put a video together to show me easily in video form…. voila!!!! I can be an expert too in 5 mins – try it with your new camera – you will be an expert in 5 mins too :)

    • Jo Middleton
      19 May, 2017 / 12:54 pm

      Good point Tina! I do find some of them a bit dire though – how come so many of the presenters can only talk at one pitch?? YAWN.

  5. 18 May, 2017 / 6:30 pm

    Omg! Don’t know whether to laugh or cry! Spot on. I don’t use Netflix or dvd player if hubby or son isn’t home because there are FIVE (!) different remote controls that may or may need buttons pressing in some mystery order that may also involve a secret handshake and a wiggle if the left earlobe.
    I’m 50 this year. I don’t know about streaming music or what Bluetooth does. I stopped listening to new music when you didn’t just go out and by the cd…. Somewhere in the middle there were minidiscs…I’ve never even seen one! They may be obsolete now. I have the most basic mobile phone possible and still only use at most half of the functions.
    Then people start talking about storing everything in clouds and drop boxes ….
    I’m lost.
    Thinking now of my poor grandparents who’s new tech was the invention of TV and one channel… Even hubby grew up with only a black and white TV!

    • Jo Middleton
      19 May, 2017 / 12:51 pm

      We had three channels when I was little and I had a black and white TV in my room for a while that just had one knob, that you had to tune in like a radio to attempt to get a decent picture!

      • 19 May, 2017 / 1:05 pm

        oh yes i had one n my room I remember the excitement that me and my briother felt when our parents bought us each a B&W tv for our bedrooms – that was quite posh in those days to have a tv in a bedroom as well as a living room!

  6. Kathryn Hipkin
    21 May, 2017 / 6:53 pm

    Glad it’s not just me that doesn’t understand Netflix, Spotify, bluetooth……..and so relieved that it’s not just me that stopped buying music once cd wasn’t the way to do it any more! Tho there are always plenty of people in HMV on Saturdays and my kids love the place s there might be more than we think.
    And the remote controls – which one does what when and WHY do there have to be so many.
    I have concluded that remote controls are gadgets made for men by men because a woman wouldn’t be so daft, just wants to use the thing.
    Men live in the Gadget shop (if it still exists) and women live in Claire’s Accessories where things are pretty and we know what’s what!
    My husband was amused by the technology references from Douglas Adams tho, so he must feel a modicum of empathy?
    Thanks for posting.

  7. Tony
    14 August, 2017 / 9:10 am

    I’m 61. Just installed a new TV that has 2 remote controls; 1 for “normal” use, 1 for “simple” use. I figured out how to set-up, configure and connect everything without once looking at the manual (download able only).

    Changed my mobile handset 2 weeks ago. Swapped all details between the two by using the NFC connectivity.

    I also spend quite a bit of my spare time helping people with theIran tech problems and teaching them what to do.

    I have very few problems with technology.

    Unfortunately, most companies won’the offer me a job because once the realise my age, they assume that I’m going to struggle to keep up to date. (Of course, they won’t ever say that)

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