The sky is falling!

Doug Gulasy

I’ve often wondered if we in the media picture the American public as a bunch of “Chicken Littles,” people who think every trivial event is a potential catastrophe.

That question grew more prominent in my mind during the run-up to the digital television transition, which happened Friday.

That’s right. After a four-month delay that brought us months of somber newspaper, radio and television reports about the transition, DTV is finally here.

And the impact of the switch? Minuscule. Microscopic, even. Because as of the last Nielsen survey, fewer than 3 million households were unprepared for the switch. Considering there are 114 million households in this country, that 3 million number isn’t very large.

So why did the media act as though Americans were in a panic about the DTV transition?

Because that’s generally what happens in this country when it comes to technology.

Think about it. Remember the Y2K scare, when Americans were terrified that computers would think the year 2000 was really the year 1900?

Do you remember what the panicked citizens did? They flocked to grocery stores in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve, stocking up on milk, bread and toilet paper (because nothing’s more valuable during emergencies than good ol’ TP).

Then the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, 2000 . and nothing happened. Life went on as normal and those panicked citizens just didn’t need to buy toilet paper for a while.

I know the Y2K scare seems silly now, and it was. But it showcases America’s fear of technology better than any other example could.

The fear may be foolish, but it’s there. We don’t trust technology 100 percent. We certainly don’t trust it as much as we trust our own intuition.

Who can we blame for this fear?

Personally, I blame Arnold Schwarzenegger —— not for anything he’s done as California’s governor, but for the “Terminator” movies. Because of those movies, I don’t use computers. A typewriter is good enough for me (except when I make a mistake).

But maybe Ahh-nold’s not to blame. Maybe George Orwell is. Or maybe there’s nobody to blame but ourselves.

Then again, perhaps we shouldn’t blame anyone. Instead, we should do our best to eliminate this fear, to strike back against our worries about new technology. That’s what I’m trying to do.

So if anyone walking in downtown Pittsburgh gets hit in the head by something plummeting from above, don’t worry. It won’t be the sky falling; it’ll be the digital converter box I chucked from the top of the U.S. Steel Tower.

After all, if I learned anything from the “Terminator” movies, it’s that we need to start the resistance early.

Doug Gulasy is a senior newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. His typewriter doesn’t get e-mails, but you can send your comments to [email protected] anyway if you’d like to join the resistance.