Call me nostalgic, but I long for the days before the computer.
Don’t get me wrong. I marvel at the existence of it and what it can do. I am amazed that the computer sitting on my lap can do more than one that used to be the size of my condo.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy being able to look up the spelling for the word “bulbous” without having to open a book. But having to search for the word in a dictionary results in you discovering a bunch of other things along the way that you weren’t looking for, and that were utterly delightful to discover. Like the fact that there really is such a thing as a titmouse, and that “conniption” does not have Latin roots.
Being able to get something quickly is great, but it takes away from the incidental discoveries that occur when you actively engage in seeking something among other things.
I do like the fact that in the time it takes the department store salesperson to seek and find that they don’t have any Halston Z-14 cologne, absolutely the most delicious scent ever created, I could have located 20 suppliers of it online (I chose one unimaginatively called “fragrances.net” or something), but, on the other hand, I kind of like buying things from real people, too. You meet interesting people that way, and you get a little more exercise, especially if no one has what you want.
I am convinced, though, that a real person did not invent the computer. There is nothing else on earth that one needs to almost be an expert at to use.
Can you imagine if your toilet malfunctioned as often as your computer does? And if you called the store’s customer service department (if they had one for toilets), they had you taking the whole thing apart?
I’ve spent about the equivalent of 3 years, 176 days and 4 hours on the phone with tech support reps who are unable to communicate much other than asking me to repeat my name over and over again.
I regret that I will never, ever, get that time back again.
I actually once had a phone support tech tell me to test the broken mouse port by plugging the monitor into it. I don’t know why I did that (somewhere in the back of my mind I hear my third grade teacher saying, “If someone told you to eat dirt, would you do it?”) but I followed her inane advice, only to see the entire screen go instantly black, and the computer abruptly click off forever.
It took 14 more calls to their customer support until I reached someone who comprehended the idiocy of what I was told to do, and sent me a new computer in the mail.
They insisted I send the old one back.
I suppose they put it in a museum somewhere as an example of what happens when you let regular consumers mess around with something as complicated as a computer.
The desktop computer they sent (I have never seen a “desktop” that was actually made to sit on a desk, except the desk of the repair office at the local MicroCenter) was much larger than the one I sent back, so I had to rearrange all the furniture in my apartment to accommodate it.
Yes, I enjoy using “Word” to write documents at work, but I spend quite a bit of time un-formatting what it formats in a way that I don’t like, and heaven forbid you somehow foul up the “Normal” template, all the time you spent ensuring that all documents default to Bodoni 72 point bold will have been in vain.
A college English professor did some research and exposed many mistakes in the spell-checking and grammar function of Word. I suppose if they had really intended that it would be more than a typewriter, they would have named it “Paragraph” or “Document.”
But “Word”? With a title like that, they didn’t set the bar very high.
The latest version is practically unusable because it mysteriously changes whatever it feels like. Like Mikey’s answering machine in the movie “Swingers,” it has a mind of its own.
So, here are 21 reasons I’m no longer in love with my computer:
1. They stole my time, and didn’t give it back.
2. There apparently is no way to delete anything you ever wrote on a computer.
3. There apparently is no way to clear the tracks of websites you visited.
4. There is no such thing as a secure site. When the customer service rep takes the records home on a laptop they accidentally leave on a train, your stuff is public, baby.
5. There is no customer service in the computer world.
6. There are telephone lines at most tech support departments that actually aren’t connected to a phone. They are unplugged, I think.
7. The average toaster lasts longer than the average computer.
8. Switching browsers never works.
9. It takes 4 hours every day to delete emails, even the ones I want to read.
11. Being found by people I would have sooner not be found by.
12. There is no piece of furniture made before 1995 that you can comfortably use as computer furniture, and there is no computer furniture ever made that you could ever use for anything else.
13. At least in the Windows world, there is no way to prevent a virus from copying all of your files and sending them to 2 million people. That was never a worry when all I used to communicate was a phone and a typewriter.
14. Urban myths. The smartest people I know have forwarded emails with a “real” photograph of a flock of birds that amazingly resembled Picasso’s “Guernica,” or that if I forwarded the email Microsoft would pay me $250 for every person who opened it and then still talked to me afterward.
15. All those lotteries I won.
16. Turning on the computer only to find out it doesn’t want to turn on. I have never turned on a light, radio or television that hasn’t obediently started up right away. Every computer I’ve owned has, at least 12 times, turned on to the Blue Screen of Death.
17. Even if you attempt to incinerate the hard drive of a computer you are discarding (if you can find the hard drive) in the kind of blast furnace they use to melt steel, a 12 year-old with a PlayStation 2 can resurrect it in a few minutes.
18. Printer cartridges cost more than printers.
19. Laptop batteries cost almost as much as laptops. Interestingly, by the time you need to replace the battery for $250, the computer itself will just be running out of warranty.
20. Computer ads, commercials, instructions, warranties, online help, FAQs, and customer service reps are completely incomprehensible.
21. The fact that all wireless networks aren’t free.
Of course, there are more profound issues in the world than my complaints about computers. And they are truly amazing in so many ways.
I just wish they would figure out how to deliver all of that amazing stuff in a product that works as reliably as my toaster, and doesn’t need to be replaced more frequently than one.
My toasters broken but my computer works just fabulously (even after I spilt tea in it).
Maybe try making peanut butter toasties without the toaster pocket (I tried with jam). When the toaster gives up the ghost, the laptop will feel the need to take up the slack 🙂
Wouldn’t that be great, Nicola, if there was a way to combine the two? Well, on the bright side, you can use epinions.com to find a better toaster — one where you can make all the peanut butter toasties you want, WITH JELLY!
As your tech support person, I take issue with #5. I AM your computer support!!!
You are, Lynn and you are the BEST! In a prior version of this essay, I had included the brand name of the computer company I was referring to, but decided later to remove it. SO! Just for the record, the company-based tech support I have received has only cause headaches that were later cured by my buddy Lynn Thames!