I have been proud to be a geek since my days in high school. While that placed limits on my social life, I’ve always believed that dates with homecoming queens and cheerleaders are overated. So instead of learning to be smooth with the ladies, I spent my time learning to wield a soldering iron with only occasional burns. It was only natural that when personal computers became available I lusted over pictures of the Atari and the Imsai, which I could not afford. Over time other options appeared and I jumped at the chance to assemble a Cosmac Elf when it showed up in Popular Electronics magazine in the 1970’s.
I believe I’ve been responsible with regard to computers. I’ve tried to meet their environmental requirements and lovingly fed them the latest utility programs to keep them operating at their peak. While there were some peripherals I couldn’t afford, I tried to be open minded and at least consider them. With such devotion you’d think that I’d deserve some modicum of respect from computers. Or at least some grudging tolerance. After all they get to stay in my home, consume my power and make my office 5 degrees warmer than the rest of the house during the summer.
But sadly, this is not the case. Like Siegfried & Roy’s tiger, my computers have turned on me without provocation at the worst possible moments. In fact, they’re more like a teenage child. They don’t listen, they mope and they’re just plain contrary.
As computers have advanced, I’ve not always been the first to upgrade but I’ve made sure that my computers have not had to do without. “It’ll make them better,” I tell myself. “They need this!”
The computers don’t appreciate this loyalty. My circa 1979 Radio Shack TRS-80 would load a word processing program so I could begin writing in a matter of a few seconds. My ultra-fast, quad core, 64 bit, dual exhaust, positraction system running Windows 7 64 bit Ultimate sits there and churns forever from the time I hit the switch until I see the log-on screen. This does not mean I can start to work, it merely means I can log on.
So I enter entering my user name and password and go to get a cup of coffee. I don’t mean to the kitchen to merely pour coffee from the pot. I have enough time to find a coffee plant, compare notes with Juan Valdez, wait for the beans to be at the peak of their ripeness, gather the beans, roast them, grind them and then make coffee. Then I’m able to start work.
Two months ago my printer died, so I replaced it with an ink jet that scans, prints and accepts wireless connections to the computers around the house.
After repeated attempts I was not able to activate the wireless connectivity. Figuring that my firewall program may have been protecting me from my own printer, I gave up. Shortly thereafter (after having a good laugh at my expense, I’m sure) the wireless feature started spontaneously working. The printer and I had reached a state of mutual co-existence.
“This is not a ‘Happy Printer’ ink cartridge,” it proclaimed. I pressed [OK] on the printer’s panel.
“Happy Printers warranty does not cover damage due to the use of anyone else’s ink.” Again I pressed [OK]. It was like the horses in Harry Potter that brought the students from Beaubaton’s to Hogwarts for the Tri-wizard Championship. “My horses only drink single malt whiskey!”
Burdened by the illusion that I was in control, I installed a system that I have used in the past in which the ink cartridges are connected to small tanks of ink so that cartridges don’t have to be changed every three pages. The printer decided this was absolutely intolerable, and like a classic vampire (as opposed to the currently in vogue teenage ones) sucked the ink out of the system faster than bonuses flying out of a bank receiving federal bail out funds.
I began to frantically look for the ink leak before it ran down the stand and all over the carpet. No ink. I opened the printer and poked around with paper towels. A few drops and no more. There was sufficient ink on the cartridges so that when I removed them my fingers looked like they had lost a fight with the Sunday funnies, but no evidence as to where the rest of the ink was.
I believe that there is only one possible explanation. On the other side of the universe is my anti-matter counterpart. He’s looking at his new printer in disbelief as large quantities of ink pour out from it. I believe this because I also believe that he ends up with all the odd socks that disappear from my dryer. In any case I realized that I cannot win against a device that has intergalactic and parallel universe powers. I capitulated.
Yesterday I got a phone call about a job interview, so I sat down to print a copy of my resume for tomorrow’s meeting. In today’s job market it’s expected that a resume be tweaked for each possible employer. I noticed a few changes that I needed to make, and began to edit.
Nothing. I pressed the keys again. Now every 3rd or 4th letter would print. I rebooted the computer – and when the login screen came up I couldn’t type my password. I rebooted again. Using the mouse I ran utility programs to correct registry errors. I connected an old beat-up keyboard and was able to get to the manufacturer’s site to download the latest drivers and software. I still ended up with:
“Te qqqqqqck brooooon fx jpd ovvvr t lzy doog”
With the alternate keyboard, I wrote an e-mail to the manufacturer asking for help. Suddenly the keyboard started working. I’m guessing I had successfully executed the cyber equivalent of telling its parents.
So if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and print that resume.
“To err is human. To really foul up you need a computer.”
Copyright 2010 SF Nowak All Rights Reserved