Learning to love the computer, warts and all

 

This Dave Barry column was originally published January 6, 2002

At least once per day, without fail, my computer, like every computer I have ever owned, has some kind of emotional breakdown. It simply stops working - often when I'm not touching it - and it puts a message on the screen informing me that an error has occurred. It does not say what the error is, nor where it occurred. For all I know, it occurred in New Zealand, and my computer found out about it via the Internet, and became so upset that it could not go on.

When this happens, I have to turn my computer off and start it up again. When I do, my computer puts a snippy note on the screen informing me that it is scanning its disks for errors, because it was shut down improperly.

"But I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING!" I shout, but my computer ignores me, because it is busy scanning its disks. You just know that if it finds any errors, it's going to blame me, even though I don't even know where its disks ARE.

While my computer is busy, I scan my wart. I have a wart on my right leg. It has been there for many years. I call it Buddy. I keep an eye on Buddy, in case his appearance changes. I've read that it's a bad thing, medically, when a wart suddenly changes appearance. If I ever look down and see that Buddy has turned green, or he's wearing a little pair of Groucho glasses, I'll know it's time to take some kind of medical action. Such as quit drinking.

But my point is that because of computer weirdness, I regularly see an entire morning's work - sometimes as many as 18 words - get blipped away forever to the Planet of Lost Data. Needless to say, I use Microsoft Windows. I've been a loyal Windows man since the first version, which required you to write on the screen with crayons. Every year or so, Microsoft comes out with a new version, which Microsoft always swears is better and more reliable, and I always buy it. I bought Windows 2.0, Windows 3.0, Windows 3.1415926, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows RSVP, The Best of Windows, Windows Strikes Back, Windows Does Dallas, and Windows Let's All Buy Bill Gates a House the Size of Vermont.

My computers keep having seizures, but I keep buying Windows versions, hoping I'll get lucky. I'm like the loser in the nightclub who keeps hitting on the hot babe. His shoes are squishing from the piña colada she poured on him, but he's thinking: "She's warming up to me!"

I bring this all up because now Microsoft has a new version out, Windows XP, which according to everybody is the "most reliable Windows ever." To me, this is like saying that asparagus is "the most articulate vegetable ever." But still, I am tempted. "Maybe this will be the one, " I say to Buddy, as the two of us wait for the disks to be scanned.

If I do get Windows XP, I won't try to install it myself. I no longer mess with the innards of my computer. The last time I tried was a disaster, even though I enlisted the aid of my friend Rob Stavis, a medical doctor who is the most mechanically inclined person I know. Rob can disassemble and successfully reassemble a live human being. He and I recently spent an entire weekend trying to solve an allegedly simple computer problem. We wound up at the computer store, talking to guys who were trained by the Monty Python Institute of Customer Service:

US: So, what do we need to make it work?

THEM: You need a model FRT-2038 expostulating refrembulator.

US: And that will make it work?

THEM: No.

Finally, I hired a guy named J.C., who is a Microsoft Certified Technician. He was in my office for the better part of two days, most of it on the phone with Technical Support. It was fascinating for me, a layperson, to hear the technical terminology that J.C. used to get the information he needed: "DO NOT PUT ME ON HOLD, DO YOU HEAR ME? DO NOT PUT ME ON HO.... HELLO? HELLO?? YOU (very nontechnical term)!"

In the end, J.C. solved the problem. So now I'm thinking about hiring him again. Because the more I think about this Windows XP, the better it looks, sitting over there by the bar, drinking a piña colada. All I have to do is make my move, and I'll have what every guy dreams of: computer reliability!

I worry about who will take care of Buddy.

© Dave Barry This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Electronic or print reproduction, adaptation, or distribution without permission is prohibited. Ordinary links to this column at http://www.miamiherald.com may be posted or distributed without written permission.

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