Thursday, August 27, 2009
Like me, my computers, have changed over the years. I have had the primeval Window's MS-DOS system, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Millennium and Windows XP. When I have more time to drive through the learning curve, this winter I am thinking of making the leap to Windows Vista.
Despite all the tidying and maintenance, yesterday my XP gave me the window telling me it is out of virtual memory. Though I have three hard drives, I admit I have too many graphic programs and pictures. It has been a good workhorse.
Our son, the Toronto banker, is the real computer maharishi and in comparison, my 'puter knowledge makes me feel like I am in still in computer kindergarten.
Every family needs a Rodney. When he comes home, my computer gets cleaned up, updated, new programs installed and he makes it runs like a brand new machine. He is very patient. Even when he spent hours fixing an infuriating problem and I came in and asked him a dumb question, he was polite. That's a real test of character. Fred has done that to me several times when my machine is requiring resuscitation. He stands and observes, often eating a banana or a cookie, casually offering basic fix-it suggestions – all of which I have tried. I use what little restraint I have left to not yell at him because it's not him I am angry with but he is an easy target. When my computer and printer are humming along serenely, the world is real fine. However when the gremlins get in and for no reason at all, hopelessly mess everything up, I am like the dog that goes at the porcupine and doesn't give up or walk away despite a face full of quills. A flaw in my character makes it become personal.
Of all the systems, I loved my little Windows 95. It was so fun. I learned almost all my computer skills on that little guy. It was easy to drive – easy to fix. I crashed it several times and it taught me to not be afraid because whatever goes awry can be mended. When it was brought down by a nasty virus and was too old for security updates and repairs, I felt like I had lost an old friend.
Several years later on a hot August afternoon, lightening stuck five feet from our house. The storm came so quickly; I hadn't shut off my Windows ME. When the lights came back on, my computer didn't. I was hoping at least for the blue screen of death but instead I got the black screen of annihilation. I couldn't call Rodney because our phones and phone lines were also torched. I rode the bumpy learning curve and eventually restored it though it took half a year till everything worked correctly.
December 2008 as I was singing about the midnight clear and my printer was chugging out our Christmas card, suddenly everything stopped. I thought it was a paper jam, but a closer look revealed that my printer was being uninstalled and the cursor was flying all over my monitor. A flaw that particular day in Microsoft Explorer allowed a hacker to get inside my computer. By the time I figured out what was going on and unplugged my modem, my faithful XP was considerably muddled up. It Came Upon The Midnight Clear received a new chorus that afternoon.
Years ago when my Windows 95 couldn't be revived and I was in the middle of a deadline-computer job (I do custom graphic work) – I switched to the MS-DOS to finish. Not a good idea. The ancient clunker was agonizing slow, inflexible and refused to cooperate. I did what I have always dreamed of doing in the heat of a computer conflict. I unplugged the tower and carried it outside. Pumped with adrenaline, holding it above my head, I tossed it as far as I was able. Then I picked it up and threw it again, and again and again. Likely not what an anger management course would advocate, but golly, it felt great. I walked back in the house and hugged my broken little '95.
Everyone with a computer has a frustrating story or two – it's part of the game and my PC and I have a love-hate relationship. The world as we know it has been commandeered by computers and sometimes I think it was more peaceful back in the day. I actually had to write with pen and paper, get up and walk to check the time, the temperature, and the news of the day or fetch a long forgotten book once called the dictionary. I also seemed to have more postage stamps on hand.
With a smile I remember the day Fred came home from town and discovered computer parts strewn all over our front yard. Very cautiously he remarked, "It finally crashed, huh?"
My Toronto kids are big Mac fans and are trying to sell me on that system. I am almost persuaded. They tell me Macs don't have the frustrating hitches and hiccups that IBM is proverbially known for. I think of my computer combat memoirs then reckon - well, where would be the fun in that?