Being born sometime in the early Cretaceous period, I have not the same affinity with computers as the younger set. I envy the way in which they spring from the womb with a cell phone growing on their ear and an instant knack for arguing about the relative desirability of features that are ‘essential’ when buying the latest gizmo. My own life with computers is, at best, an uneasy alliance where the machine always seems to have the upper hand.
I lie awake at night pondering the endless stream of new features and upgrades that highlight the fact that, whatever machine I have now, it is already woefully inadequate. Remember the ‘Commodore 64’? Of course not! It had its 37 seconds in the sun as the latest and greatest innovation before something faster, smarter, sleeker, smaller and more expensive ran it off the road. Not long after the day I was told my old Commodore would make a better boat anchor than a trade-in, I heard a computer expert say that, if automobile manufacturing kept advancing at the same rate as computers, we’d now have a car that could run a million miles on a thimbleful of gas, power an ocean liner and… oh yes, you could fit ten of them on the head of a pin. So, instead of figuring out how to get anyone into that size vehicle, car manufactures are now putting computers into cars. There are those wondering if this isn’t getting the worst of both worlds.
I suppose that’s why, every time I trot down to the electronics boutique, I hear the five year old computer wizard behind the counter say, “You’ve had that computer for how long? Gosh, I didn’t think there weren’t any of those left in the world. Most of them died off with the brontosaurs. No wonder you can’t get anything to run. You need…. !” I’m sure you can fill in the blank – anything from software updates to a new machine that has a mind boggling number of giggle-bites to measure the number of laugh tracks your computer can juggle at the same time.
When it comes right down to it, I use the computer for word processing, some on-line research and messaging. The computer I ‘need’ apparently has a trillion other features, none of which I’ll use, understand or get to work at any point in the rest of my limited existence. But let’s face it, these programmers are clever, wily and totally without mercy – they understand Darwin and they know what to do to make their own survival essential.
I hearken back to when I was using a PC. It eventually got to the point where I downloaded an ‘update’ that brought the whole machine to a grinding halt. Apparently the ‘new software’ wasn’t compatible with the ‘old software’ and I was faced with adapting to a cruel new operating environment or extinction. I still can’t hit an ‘update’ button without breaking out in a sweat and having my hands shake as I light an incense candle while I sprinkle rose petals on the keyboard and chant a prayer to the GREAT COMPUTER GOD in the cloud to please spare my poor unworthy computer and, in its infinite mercy, to grant it but a few more moments of life…
Of course ‘updates’ aren’t the only laugh fests that programmers have sprinkled along the computer highway. I am inclined to think it is a computer programmer’s biological imperative to put ‘bugs’ into every program they produce. This ensures that they will have endless work – supposedly fixing the problem but in reality merely tweaking the bug so it has a chance to live on. It’s like making vaccines just in time for a virus to have mutated.
If something goes wrong and the fix actually works, they will either save the fix for new generation machine or they send out the dreaded ‘up-dates available’ notices – just so they can watch me tremble. I am reminded of the bug that I’ve found in the Word program that I use. Every once in a while I’m working on a document and suddenly every character in the entire document changes to *. Rows and rows of thousands and thousands of little * – like this: ***********************************************************************************
I’ve checked and it appears that there is no cure for this bug. It effectively erases any work you’ve done between when you last pressed the ‘save’ button and when it happens. Is it just me, or can you also see some programmer rubbing his/her hands together and hear them laughing to the point of wetting themselves at the thought of the look on my face when this happens?
As a firm believer in conspiracy theories (how else was D. Trump elected four years ago?) I suspect bugs have a secondary purpose. They are made to create entertainment and mirth for programmers who get to watch the frantic on-line posts by poor slobs like me that are tearing their hair out in frustration while seeking a fix to the latest bug.
Computers – can’t live with them and can’t live without ’em.