Opinion Issue 02

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Our computer had been struck dumb by a terminal illness.

It was a sudden and severe case of deliberately contrived Alzheimer’s. The poor baby was so sick that she couldn’t think or function at all. We hauled her off to the computer doctor for diagnosis.

He pronounced her with total short term (as in documents) and long term (as in programs) memory loss. After opening her up, the doc said a virus or worm had attacked her and nothing could be done to restore her memory or return her back to her original health.

If healthy she ever was, which is debatable.

Here’s a description of what happened when the terminal illness struck her down while I sat, late one night, at our only computer that had Internet-access.

As I backed out of the Internet, closing the connecting phone line, our computer’s regular menu appeared on the monitor’s screen in front of me. First, a rude word briefly flashed on the screen (a vulgar expression of “I gotcha!”) and then, before my very eyes should disappear, all of the program icons, which meant the programs disappeared too.

The computer doc said the only thing left inside was a slick hard-drive; not even partitions (or whatever they are called) remained. He had to intravenously feed new programs into her.

Still, she has never been the same since. But then, she never did function the way I thought a computer should. Too often, she forgot her place in our office’s pecking order and she behaved as if she thought she were boss. She could be downright aggressive and rude.

She too frequently accused me, still does, of doing an illegal act when, I swear, I had done nothing at all. It’s not fair that she leaves me with a vague sense of guilt, when I have always been a law-abiding citizen. I find myself looking over my shoulder to see who is watching whenever I work at my computer.

Like an aggravatingly childish sibling, she blamed me, still does, for things it did, not I. She blamed me for shutting down a program improperly when it was she who did that. Along with misplacing the blame, she punished me for tossing, where I cannot find it, whatever it was I was writing and hadn’t saved. She doesn’t even have the professional courtesy of tossing it into her trash-can where I can retrieve it.

I sit here at my computer late at night emitting exclamations of frustration. My three furry little poodle-type companions – Tipper, HoJo and Marie de Mici – who lie at my feet, look up at me with sympathetic brown eyes. They at least have compassion.

I have a new computer due to arrive any day. She will have the new Windows XP, touted as the newest improved Windows version. I await her arrival with bated breath. Dare I suppose that will solve all my computer woes?

I have often thought Microsoft Works was an oxymoron. But then, perhaps the moron is I who thinks that one day I will be the one in control of my computer and all of its programs and extremities, including keyboard. (That – like biting the hand that feeds it – spews gibberish onto my screen and performs other forms of malicious mischief.)

Our new computer will have so many devices of protection from worm and virus that I hope she and I can function moderately well together.

My spouse suggested we sedate her, upon her arrival, with heavy doses of Ritalin to keep her calm so she won’t misbehave, like some parents do with recalcitrant children. That’s not a bad idea, for somehow I must find a way to immediately show her who’s boss. I have to get the bluff in early, while she is still young and impressionable.






Well, my new computer has arrived. I have barely begun to fully experience all of its capabilities. Actually, I know I never will because, unlike my inquisitive offspring, I do not have an inquiring mind. Our kids want to know all about their computers and they soon learn how to read theirs like a book. In fact, I am sure they do read the book. Not I. I can’t be bothered with such inconsequential matters that include exploratory experimentation.

I want to find the most expedient way; for me that is simply calling one of our kids or grandkid, or anyone else who knows more about computers than I do – which is the whole universe, including five-year old children – to tell me how to do some function.

I have been told by well-meaning friends, family members and work associates throughout my associations with computers to be unafraid to try out all of my computer’s various functions and capabilities. After all, they say, that is how I will learn. However, every time I play around with it, I get in trouble. Something locks up, or my important data gets deleted or it disappears somewhere within the complex brain of the monster, never to be found again.

My new computer is no exception. She arrived with few programs already installed, almost none of which I am familiar. The only write program she had was Word Perfect.

I opened a Word Perfect document and began to type a couple dichos.

Dichos are Hispanic sayings that, of course, need to be written in Spanish. No problem; I wrote them in Spanish and used italics to properly show they were written in another language. Spanish words, unlike some languages, use the same alphabet as that of American and English (aren’t those two different languages?). That is good. However, there was a small problem. Spanish words have markings – the little squiggly line above an “n” that signifies a combination of “n” and “y” sound when pronounced, and the accent mark, the small upper backslash, that indicates which part of the word is emphasized when spoken.

How do I add those marks? Aha! I thought I knew. First, I highlighted the Spanish phrase I had already typed. Then I clicked on Tools and from there to Languages, and from there selected American Spanish. How clever I was!

A little box dropped down with an inquiry and a prompt. It said something like, “Hello dear. We don’t have that in stock at the moment but we can get it for you. Do you want to get it now?” Of course I did. I said yes and she promised to download it for me in just a moment while I waited.

She soon came back to say, “Ah, sorry dear. I looked everywhere but we don’t seem to have it after all.” So I tried to back out of there and return to my Dichos document.

She wouldn’t let me. She kept interrupting what I was doing to offer me yet another opportunity. “Do you want to download American Spanish now?” she asked. Like a dummy, I said yes. But then she said she couldn’t. I said, oh forget it! But she wouldn’t. She repeatedly asked me if I wanted it. I said no and told her to go away and mind her own business. But she wouldn’t. Nothing I knew how to do would make her leave me alone.

I figured that she got stuck halfway into trying to activate the Spanish language that she couldn’t produce, and then couldn’t get herself out of it. At any rate, I didn’t know how to get her out of it.

In spite of her constant interruptions, I returned to my Dichos document. In addition to writing a couple dichos, with their translations in American, I also wrote a few American witticisms, similar to the ones Benjamin Franklin taught us, such as an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

She ran constant interference. She finally stopped interrupting me but she underlined in red every single word I wrote. She said she couldn’t give me the Spanish format, yet she indicated that every word I wrote in American was misspelled, apparently expecting it to be in Spanish and, therefore, it was wrongly written. Yet she gave me no accents on the Spanish words I did write. It was total chaos.

After a long battle of wills — hers against mine — I gave up. She won. I closed the document, opened another and began to write a whole new piece, the one about the courthouse.

There’s nothing wrong with this new computer’s memory. Every single word I typed onto the new document, and on every subsequent document, was underlined in red. In Word Perfect, I am now stuck in this situation of half Spanish and half not, an uncommunicative situation. I can understand some Spanglish, which is sometimes spoken around here, but her lingo doesn’t work at all.

My computer thinks she is the winner. Not!

I have downloaded MS Word.

(There is a moral here: I think it is this: One must be smarter than a machine to operate one; or at least, one should learn how to operate a computer responsibly. I hate it when they make me feel so dumb.)