Even though Election Day is just days away and may well foreshadow a fascist takeover of the nation, and;
Even though a power-mad psychotic might announce he’s running for president, and;
Even though laws are changing so that every idiot who wants to walk around with a loaded gun can do so, and;
Even though the Russians are threatening to launch nuclear weapons, and;
Even though climate change is causing ever more devastating storms, wildfires, droughts, and extinctions,
Why dwell on such unpleasantness when we can concentrate on the petty annoyances created by computers?
I bought my first computer in the mid-1980s for $1,100. This PC was so slow that if I turned it on at breakfast, it might have booted up by lunch. It came with a 20 MB hard disk, which these days is enough storage for either three songs or four photographs, not both.
There was no Internet.
Since I was a relatively early user, I pretended that I was a geek and over the years, I deigned to give advice to those even more inept than I was. Because I knew real geeks and could go to them for advice, occasionally I was able to provide reliable guidance.
One of my “clients” called me because her printer had stopped working. When I made a housecall, I found that the machine wasn’t plugged in. (On several occasions, I have been able to make similar sophisticated diagnoses.)
But while I was crawling under her desk, I discovered three interconnected power strips with a massive spaghetti of dozens of wires. When I followed the wires, I found that most were not connected to anything. After I removed these vestiges of devices long gone, she ended up with one power strip and three wires, one of which was connected to a lamp.
Among the hapless to whom I gave repeated assistance was my mother. I made the enormous mistake of giving her a computer when she was in her 80s. She used it exclusively for email.
Over the succeeding years, she received hundreds of messages a day soliciting donations because she had the misguided compulsion to complete all online surveys. Ultimately, I stepped in when I discovered that she had agreed to contribute a dollar a month to a not-particularly-worthy cause.
When she was in her 90s, her desktop died, so I bought her a Chromebook. She persistently pushed the wrong buttons often ending up with a screen either reduced to the size of a pinhead or covered with an array of gibberish. Fortunately, Chromebook comes with “Powerwash” which involves pushing four buttons simultaneously returning the machine to its original condition. I had to perform this operation about every two months.
Perhaps the most embarrassed recipient of my expertise was me. In the corner of our house, furthest from the modem-router, we had a terrible Internet connection. I started reading about the marvel of mesh routers and finally bought one. I should have done so years earlier and avoided the outrageous $14 monthly rental of Comcast’s device.
But when I installed the two components of the mesh router, one near the modem and one at the far end of the house, nothing worked! Late at night, I was on the phone with some techie on the other side of the globe following elaborate directions. Still, nothing worked, and the verdict was that the new device was defective.
The next morning, I packed up the components and only then noticed that what I thought was the satellite had a yellow socket clearly marked “Internet.” I had reversed the source and satellite. Instead of being an ersatz expert, I had become a certifiable klutz.
Once the device was connected correctly, our download speed at the farthest reach of the house increased from a snail pace 25 mbps to a lightning 411 mbps.
(Incidentally, children these days rarely need help with computers since they are born with intrauterinely acquired E-skills.)
Further evidence that my relationship to computers is in decline is the fact that I still use an antediluvian desktop because I like to write on a big keyboard, probably because I learned to type in the seventh grade on a manual typewriter. (Do you know what that is?)
And I am deeply offended by current programs created by some Google or Microsoft nerds that have the presumption to make stylistic decisions for me as I write. No, that is not what I wanted to say, nor is it how I wanted to say it!
Ironically, these days the only keyboard most people use is the one on their smartphone. This is a real reversion to the ancient days of typewriters as people use one or two fingers to hunt and peck. Even worse, with texting, “writers” just fill in the blanks with pre-selected words or (ugh) insert a picture.
We are seeing the future: It is illiteracy.
But be sure to vote anyway.