Wednesday, December 15, 2010


My computer failed on me last week. It was at least 6 years old and finally decided that it was time to quit. Because of this, I am a bit later than planned publishing this post. I have a new machine now and am doing battle with it trying to get everything running the way I want it to. This has been a long and tedious struggle but I think I am winning.

This has made me think about our dependence on computers these days. Think of it for a minute. A typical working day, a computer chip in my alarm clock tells me when to get up, the computer chip in the microwave cooks my breakfast, the computer in my car tells it to start, when I get to work, I log in on the computer to check to see what the computer has for me to do that day, I head out to the production line to find the operators sitting in chairs in the control room. I ask them why the line isn’t running and they tell me it is because the computer is down. At the end of the day, I check the computer to set up for my next day’s work… Then we all go around the circle again.

Last week, when I found myself sitting in front of my home computer staring at a frozen screen, I was lost. My hard drive was shot. I was desperate to get it running again. My wife walked into the room to find me leaning back in my desk chair, holding my computer (notebook) over my head, shaking it and tapping on the bottom. It was returning my treatment of it by making some wild vibrating noise every once in a while, as if to tease me. Here I am, but you can’t have me and I am not going to work for you. As it turns out, I was fairly well prepared for this and had most of my stuff backed up on an external hard drive. After leaving the notebook to sit for a few days, it did start up and I managed to get the rest of my files off of it before it made one last rasping noise of distress and gave up.

At work, I am often the go-to guy in our department when someone has computer issues. I am fairly familiar with computers. Totally self-taught. I have this need to figure out how things work. Along with this, I have a real problem with things I can’t get to work. More than once I have found myself looking into the blank screen of a computer, holding a long flat-head screwdriver in my hand and threatening it (in my own mind) with inserting that screwdriver into its SD slot as far as I can and twisting it!

We have come to depend so much on computers. We sometimes come close to giving them a human persona. We talk to them, we threaten them, we talk about them like they are another person. We even depend on them. This reminds me of a set of books called Dune. In this story, there is an ultimate struggle of man against computer. The computers become so powerful that they take over from humankind and eventually treat them (us) as little more than pets. I don’t think we are anywhere near this dilemma, at least I hope not.

I have to admit that I don’t know what I would do without the computer. It has allowed me time to be able to do things like write this blog and to work with the photos I have taken on my digital camera. The list goes on and on. But there is a trap here that I have seen people (including myself) fall into.

I need to be able to push away from the machine and exert my own muscles, get up and walk around. Spend time with my wife (if she remembers who I am when I  come crawling out of my office with blood shot eyes and that big screwdriver).

Don’t get lost in the machine. It will take hold of you hang on as hard as it can, if you let it.

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