The wonders of digital devices

My children and bride mock me for my digital devices.


So do my work mates.

I would stand up for myself, but that would mean having my MacBook Air fall from my lap as I struggle to my feet entangled in the charging cords for my iPhone, iPad and iPad Mini, plus the several Jawbone Jamboxes scattered around me, which include the Big Jambox, the Regular Jambox and the Jambox Mini (which is a great little Bluetooth speaker that I put in my shirt pocket when I walk Phillip Seymour Dog and listen over 4G LTE to my “Stardust Memories” Spotify playlist, which includes over two hundred different artists all singing their own version of Hoagy Carmichael’s beautiful tune).

Oh. And I have three Kindles. And a Kindle Fire.

Now you may think I have a problem. Perhaps I do.

But the argument I present to those around me is that my livelihood in video production requires a keen knowledge of the many new tools that now carry the creative my associates and I produce and distribute.

Face it. Many people don’t watch much TV anymore. They watch their computers, or their iPhones, iPads or some Samsung tablet or phone. So it is important for me to know how our stuff is distributed and viewed.

Frankly I still revel in the fact that all the books, music, clothing and lawn and garden implements in the world are right at my fingertips. So is knowledge. (I Googled “Stardust” while writing this piece and in a blink confirmed the correct spelling of “Hoagy”).

Here’s the thing. I am old enough that the novelty of such access still amazes and delights me, unlike the young hipsters who grew up with a computer mouse in their hand … before the mouse became obsolete.

I still giggle when Siri tells me what plane is overhead in the northwoods night sky. According to Siri, that one right … over … there just left Minneapolis and is heading to London. Wow. And I remember when the only thing amongst the stars was Sputnik.

At any rate, my digital maelstrom came to a head on the night of June 16, 2014. For that was the night I used my iPhone to monitor a tornado heading right towards my home while sitting on a couch on a small screen porch three hundred miles north of the action.

First I must admit to another problem. I love weather. And I have ten to twenty iPhone and iPad weather apps to prove it. It was via this myriad of weather porn and live webcam feeds that I was able to monitor the storm moving through the Midwest that night.

Not only did my digitals allow me to watch the radar, but they also allowed me to listen to the police radios all along the storm’s route from Iowa, thanks to my scanner app, which is a tremendously dorky thing to admit you have on your phone.

At any rate, on the night in question it was pretty clear that there was something big drawing a bead on our Madison home. I watched and listened to it in Minocqua as it moved from Sioux City to Cedar Falls to Platteville and then to the door of our home in the Madison/Fitchburg area. There was an exact moment when I saw the hook echo form near Platteville and said aloud to no one because the bride was asleep and, besides, she thinks I’m nuts, “Hey. That’s a hook echo. That’s a tornado! And it’s right by our house.”

And sure enough it was a tornado, right by our house. Well ahead of traditional media, Twitter and Facebook and Instagram were alive with the damage reports. One buddy posted a Facebook picture of patio furniture driven through the wall of his home and into his daughter’s bedroom. The scanner app lit up with a frazzled Dane County dispatcher telling everyone that Verona had been hit.

Thanks to my gizmos, I knew quickly that the tornado missed our home, but that we might have damage. And we did. When we returned home the next day we saw that a big ash in our backyard gave up a limb to the winds.

So I went online and booked a tree trimmer.

Because there isn’t a chain saw app.


Madison-based television producer John Roach writes this column monthly. Reach him at

Find more of Roach’s columns here