Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Computer Conspiracy

Well, I must say there is nothing like getting a new computer to wash every other thought, idea, intent, enthusiasm, or initiative right out of one’s head. My friend Gary has been encouraging me for several years now to buy a Mac laptop with the proselytizing zeal of a Southern Baptist preacher at a tent revival meeting.

I’ve had a desktop Dell for a couple of years and been very happy with it. But it is getting a bit old, now, and with all old things (present company excepted), its time will run out. It has a nice, big screen, but is a little too cumbersome to try to haul back and forth to my part-time-weekend work. So last Friday I thought I would do my civic duty to get the economy moving again by splurging money I can ill afford on a Mac laptop. I have spent 23 hours a day since pondering the first words Samuel B. Morse tapped out on his new invention, the telegraph: “What hath God wrought?”

To say that machines hate me may appear more than a little paranoid, but the preponderance of my experience over the years with anything containing moving parts or requiring an external power source to operate provides ample proof of my belief. Computers, having some elemental…and perverse…form of intelligence, seem to go out of their way to bedevil me. I had watched Gary demonstrate with blissful “ho-hum” ease and confidence, how the Mac can write a symphony, do video presentations, slide shows, compile lists and graphs and charts of dazzling complexity. Put it in a pair of tap shoes and it could undoubtedly do a mean buck-and-wing. It all had a Harry-Potter-at-Hogwarts wonder and deceptive simplicity.

“Computers,” I am constantly told, “do exactly what you tell them to do. No more, no less.” I beg to differ. I tell a computer to do something and it does whatever it damn well pleases, snickering in its little internal secret code of endless 0s and 1s. (“Ha-ha! You didn’t say ‘Mother, May I?’ ”)

Okay, I want to do something very simple, like move a file from here to there. Easy as pie. No, make that easy as pi. I see four-year-old kids on TV commercials sending full-color coffee table books of their own photographs to Grandma in New South Wales, while I have a hard time sending an email attachment to a friend a mile away. Quite probably my failure is due, as I have said so many times before, to the fact that my threshold of frustration is so low I have to descend several feet into a hole to find it. Once my slide into frustration starts, I cannot control it and it quickly passes from confusion to anger to Krakatoa-sized rage. Tantrums can be cute in a five-year-old. They are considerably less so in a grown man.

Yet even as I watch the computer savvy of others effortlessly conjure up wonders from cyberspace, my frustration and attending fury grows. The wonders which come so easily to them could be mine. They should be mine. But they are not, and the computer knows it. It sits there in its cocoon of technology, oozing superiority while regarding me with utter contempt. I know that if I were to spend every day for the rest of my life trying to figure out what everything is for or how to use it, I still wouldn’t be able to get beyond the letter “A” in the computer’s alphabet. Gary has been infinitely patient and far-beyond-the-call-of-duty helpful, and does his best to convince me that I am an intelligent human being. But the computer knows better, and does not hesitate to let me know it.

I know my comfort level will improve—or so I insist on telling myself in a rather sad attempt to hold onto what passes for sanity. But it is the interim which drives me to distraction. I am a latter-day Neanderthal gazing into the fire of cyberspace, fascinated but clueless, agreeing fully with whoever said that fire makes a wonderful servant, but a terrible master. And right now, it definitely has the upper hand.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from and; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/ You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site: 

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