It had been a long day. I was finally home, and all I wanted to do was grab a huge bowl of ice cream, sit down, put my feet up, and maybe watch some television with my husband. Instead, I found my characters waiting for me in the living room.
Out of the jumble of excited comments that greeted me, I could only make out a few. “Did you get it?” “Where is it?” “Can we see it?”
I scowled. So much for ice cream and television. “Can you see what?”
Cleric tilted her head and furrowed her brow. “We thought you said you were going to purchase a new . . . what do you call that type of magic box?”
I sighed. Even after all these years in this world, Cleric and my other characters still struggled to understand some things. I tried not to sound annoyed when I answered her. “It’s called a laptop computer. Yes, I did purchase a new one. The old one was a piece of junk, and I was unable to use it any longer.”
My Gypsy pushed to the front of the assembled group. “So, can we see your new laptop computer?”
I shook my head. “Afraid not. I didn’t bring it home.”
“You purchased it, but you did not bring it home?” My Bounty Hunter gave me a perplexed look.
“I left it at the store. Their tech department is going to set it up for me.”
My Old Dwarf gave me a look that clearly said he thought I was a bit strange. “They be settin’ it up? Where? Be they placin’ it way up on a shelf or on top o a big, tall piece o furniture?”
I shook my head again. “They’re going to prepare the laptop so I can start using it as soon as I bring it home. Between the time the computer was manufactured and now, there have probably been several updates issued. The technicians will install those updates for me. They will also install my preferred browser – the program I use to access the internet – and a word-processing program – the program I use for writing. They will eliminate any unnecessary software, and they will install a top-of-the-line anti-virus program.”
“Wait!” Dragon gaped at me. “Anti-virus? Did you not once tell me a virus, a type of germ, makes people sick? Do germs attack inanimate objects in your world?”
I tried not to chuckle. “Yes, I did explain to you that viruses and germs make people sick. But a computer virus is not a germ. A computer virus is a piece of code that can harm a computer.”
“Code?” My Arrogant One frowned.
I sighed. “Let me try to explain in terms you might understand. Computer code is a set of instructions that tell the computer what to do. Think of code working in the same way the words to one of your spells work.”
Sorceress nodded. “So, the anti-virus code is like the wards Dragon places on something to protect it.”
I nodded. “That’s a good enough analogy, I suppose.”
My Gypsy frowned. “So how long will the store have to keep your new laptop?” How long will it take for them to get all this done?”
“It should only take a few days, depending on how many orders they have to complete before working on mine. They’ll call me when the laptop is ready for me to bring home.” I looked at my characters and narrowed my eyes. “Why are you all so interested in my new laptop, anyway?”
“We want to see what it can do.” My Gypsy’s tone of voice placed an unspoken duh at the end of his explanation, as if it should be obvious to me.
I folded my arms across my chest and glared at them. “You know what a computer can do. You’ve snuck into my office on more than a few occasions to read my stories on my desktop computer. You also took my laptop computer into the conference room to read the anthology that contained two of my short stories. You even managed to download the book onto the laptop. How you can manage that when you don’t understand technology is a mystery to me.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/02/its-here/
My Gypsy grinned. “Cleric remembered all you had done to get the book onto your big computer, and we just did the same thing on the laptop. That is the nice thing about your magic boxes. Someone with no knowledge of your system of magic can still get them to work, just by pushing the right buttons. It is not like our magic, where you need to have magical ability in order to cast a spell.”
I laughed. “That is because it isn’t magic. It’s technology.”
“So, what is the difference between magic and technology?” My Foreman asked the $64,000 question.
“I think my Gypsy pretty much summed it up. Technology can be learned, but one must have magic within them.” The expressions on the faces of my characters told me they did not understand. I raked my hand through my hair and tried again.
“If I asked if someone would turn on the lights in here, one of you would walk over to the switch on the wall and flip it to the on position. The lights would go on. It wouldn’t matter which of you did it – it would work just as well for my Old Dwarf or my Foreman as it would for Dragon or Sorceress.” I looked around and saw all my characters were nodding.
“Now, if I asked if someone would cast a spell creating light, only those with magical ability would be able to do it. Even if the rest of us were given the right words to say and the right components to use – and we recited those words precisely and combined the components correctly – we could not produce light.”
“But not everyone can use what you call technology, either.” My Young Hero frowned. “For example, I cannot drive a car. I cannot use your communication device that you call a cell phone. I cannot use the things we see in stores that you call cash registers. I cannot use the thing you termed a sewing machine that your friend uses to create clothing. And I cannot take a picture with that other magic box, the one you call a camera.”
I chuckled. “Yeah, I can’t use a sewing machine, either. My mom didn’t have the patience to teach me. But most people can learn to do such things. People who do not have magical power can never learn to cast spells.” I had a sudden idea. “Say, since the weather is improving, the temperature has gone up, and most of the snow is gone, maybe some of you would like to go on a nature walk with me tomorrow and take some pictures. I will teach anyone who is interested the basics of using the camera. That way, it might be easier for you to understand the difference between magic and technology.”
The next morning, I was surprised to find all my characters waiting to go on the nature hike with me. I looked at my Foreman and the two lads. “I thought the three of you would be working with your horses today.”
“We are easing into that.” My Foreman ducked his head, cheeks flaming. “We rode yesterday for the first time since the beginning of winter. We are all a bit sore right now.”
“A bit?” My Gypsy snorted, rubbing his rump. “More than a bit, I think.”
My Young Hero nodded. “We thought we would go with you this morning and do some walking to ease our muscles. We can do some more riding this afternoon or tomorrow.”
I smiled. “Okay, let’s go to Memorial Park in Shakopee. They have open water already, and for the past week, my friends from this area have been posting photos on social media. They’ve been seeing a lot of different waterfowl at that park.”
The first thing we saw at the park was a squirrel. “Well, this will be a good opportunity for me to show you how to use the camera.” I removed the lens cap and showed my characters how to use the viewfinder and shutter button. Then I explained how to use the zoom feature, and what settings to use. “Since this is your first time using a camera, I think you should leave the settings on automatic. Then you won’t have to try to remember so much.”
I snapped a shot of the squirrel and showed my characters how to view the photo I had just taken. “Okay? So, who wants to try?”
“Are you being honest with us?” My Arrogant One viewed me suspiciously. “We really do not have to intone an incantation or use any spell components?”
I raised an eyebrow. “I am being completely honest. This is technology, not magic. Have you ever heard me recite an incantation, or have you ever seen me use spell components, when I have been taking photographs?”
The elf furrowed his brow, then shrugged. “No. No, I have not.”
“You’ll see. The photos taken by those of you who are adept at magic will be no different than the photos taken by the non-magic users among you.”
All my characters still looked doubtful.
“Let’s go over to the river bank to start. I see a number of waterfowl on the ice by the opposite shore. There are also numerous birds swimming in the open water.”
We walked the few yards to the river, and my characters gathered close as I gave them their final instructions. “Take turns with the camera. Just be careful not to drop it. When you are taking pictures, you need to have the strap around your neck.” I took out a notebook and pen. “And I’ll keep track of who takes what photos so when we get home and I download them onto the computer, you will be able to see there is no difference between the photos taken by the magic users among you compared to the ones taken by those with no magical ability.”
The rest of the morning was spent photographing the various waterfowl on the river, birds in the trees, and a few mammals. When we got home, I downloaded the photos onto my computer so my characters could see the results of their efforts.
“Okay, I think most of the photos turned out exceptionally well.” I turned to my Bounty Hunter. “You were the first to attempt taking photos. You captured three images – a pair of swans and a flock of Mallards on the ice on the opposite side of the river, and some really good shots of the Wood Ducks in the protected cove to the right of the first photo you took.”
My Bounty Hunter turned a critical eye on his photos. “Yes, I believe you are right – they are not too bad!” He smiled proudly.
“Our second photographer was my Foreman. He took two pictures of a pair of Blue-winged Teal.”
My Foreman and the others crowded around the monitor to see. “They are not as good as I had hoped.” He looked downcast.
“That was due to the limitations of the zoom feature on my camera. The teal were pretty far away. I think these are good images, considering.”
My Gypsy clapped my Foreman on the back. “I bet my images are no better than yours. I also took photos of birds quite distant from us.”
“Yes.” I nodded. “You got six shots of some Hooded Mergansers which were only slightly closer to us than the teal. Again, not bad images considering the distance.”
My Young Hero stepped forward. “I believe the first image I captured was from a distance, but the other three were closer. How did they turn out?”
“The Redheads with the Ring-necked Duck were about as far as the swans and Mallards my Bounty Hunter took, not quite as far as the birds my Foreman and my Gypsy took. It turned out very well, as did the images of the closer Redheads.”
My Young Hero looked at his images on the monitor and grinned. “You’re right! They are as good as the others!”
“And how do my photos look?” Dragon, in her customary guise of an elf maiden, pushed to the front of the group.
I brought up her images on the monitor. “You got some excellent photos of the Canada Geese!”
Dragon smiled and acquiesced.
“And my ducks?” Sorceress moved closer to the monitor.
I smiled. “Your Mallards are excellent as well.”
“And my images?” My Arrogant One looked nervous.
“Your Trumpeter Swan images are superb!” I pointed at the monitor. “I particularly love this first close-up.”
The elf drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak with both hands. “That is my favorite as well.”
I looked at the remaining photos. “Cleric took some shots of birds in trees – a Black-capped Chickadee, three shots of a Northern Cardinal, and a Pileated Woodpecker. They are all exceptionally good.”
Cleric blushed, but a smile spread from ear to ear.
I brought up the final three images. “My Old Dwarf captured the only images of mammals today, other than the squirrel I photographed at the beginning of the hike. He got an Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, a Red Squirrel, and an Eastern Chipmunk. Nice photos!”
The dwarf grinned. “I be liken’ furry thin’s moren feathery thin’s. They do na be hidin’ so easy, and they do na be takin’ off the minute I be tryin’ ta look at ’em.”
I smiled at the old reprobate. “So, looking at the images you all took today, can we agree that the photographs taken by the magic users were no better than those images taken by the non-magic users?”
“But ye do na be provin’ anythin’ by thet, lass.” My Old Dwarf shook his head.
I tilted my head and furrowed my brow. “I think I have proven that technology, unlike magic, can be used by everyone.”
“Eh, I been thinkin’ aboot thet, and I be sayin’ thet be twaddle. There be some magic items what kin be used by anyone. Back in me ownest world, I been havin’ a ring o takin’ me places.”
I raised an eyebrow. “A ring of what?”
Sorceress cleared her throat. “I believe he means a ring of transportation.”
“Aye, thet be what it be called. Tha wearer o such a ring kin be goin’ anywhere jus’ by tha power o tha ring. Anywho, I been havin’ such a ring, and it been no problem fer me ta be usin’ it. Ye be seein’, lass, tha power be in tha ring, not in tha user. Thet means e’en a dwarf liken meself, what be havin’ no magical power whatsose’er, kin be usin’ tha ring. An’ I be arguin’ thet it be tha same wit yer magic box what ye be callin’ a camera. Tha magic be in the item, so’s even non-magical folk kin be usin’ it. It still be magic, though, not thet teck-noll-o-gee stuff ye be blatherin’ aboot.”
I gaped at my Old Dwarf, who stood before me with a smug smile on his face. How do I argue that point? I sighed.
So, what is your opinion? What is the difference between magic and technology? Are objects like cameras magical? Let me know what you think. Be sure to come back next week and see what my characters are doing. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.