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VIRG FOSS: Low-tech guy in a high-tech world

I’ll admit it, I’m a low-tech guy traveling through a high-tech world.

My cell phone is an older TracFone. It’s very inexpensive to own and operate. It looks the part. Its appearance is of the relic it is.

It doesn’t take pictures, allow text messaging or connect me to the Internet.

It enables me to make calls away from home, that’s about it. I rarely carry it with me, but do take it along on trips in case of an emergency. Even needed it for that — once.

I don’t live with an electronic device attached to my ear or hip — or heart.

And all that’s fine with me. The simpler, the better works OK for me.

I go out on occasion and see tables full of young people. None of them ever talk much to each other. They all are focused on their cell phones, texting away, surfing the web or who knows what. The art of conversation is a dying skill, I’m convinced of that.

I do rely on my laptop computer to write these columns for the newspaper and for reporting on all home hockey games for UND’s sports information department. And for staying in contact with friends and following sports, especially that.

I’m a big fan of all UND sports. But my first allegiance to college athletics was cornered by my alma mater, St. Olaf College of Northfield, Minn., where I played football and hockey.

It’s been more than 50 years since I graduated, but I remain a fan.

My laptop allows me to be one, from afar, but yet up close.

Last fall, I watched on my computer via a link as St. Olaf won the NCAA Division III men’s cross country national title, the first national team championship ever for the Oles.

That the team was coached by Phil Lundin was doubly sweet, a double-proud moment. The former University of Minnesota men’s track coach is a cousin of my next-door-neighbor at the lake, Grand Forks’ Jeff Hoplin.

I rushed over to tell Jeff the good news. He already knew, of course, his cell phone lighting up with calls from other cousins shortly after the event finished.

I’m amazed with the technology that allowed me to follow the national meet in Indiana as it went along via my laptop at my lake cabin. For a low-tech guy, it boggles my mind. I didn’t grow up with luxuries like that.

It’s not just me, either. How is my friend, Neil Reuter, a former All-America football player at UND — and a year younger than I am — so more hip to high-tech?

He told me of being on the East Coast on vacation recently, but able to watch UND basketball games on his laptop via links offered by the Big Sky Conference.

Thousands others, I’m sure, do the same in following UND sports or their alma maters.

I’ve followed college football games from my alma mater on my laptop as well. I even watched on my laptop as St. Olaf upset St. Thomas on its home court in men’s basketball the other night to win the league playoff title and advance to the Division III tournament.

So yes, I’ve taken baby steps into the high-tech world. I don’t plan on turning that into a sprint or marathon. Small steps suit my technical skill level just fine.

But today’s technology does offer some great benefits, I will admit to that.

Virg Foss reported on sports for the Grand Forks Herald for 36 years until his retirement. He writes a column exclusively for the Herald from October through April. Contact him at or (701) 772-9272.