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Progress is a matter of opinion

I have a general ‘love/hate’ relationship with modern life and in particular computers. Back in my schooldays we used to Roneo off an alternative school magazine on a typewriter, a species which had the advantage (then and now) of doing only exactly what you asked it to do. You typed onto a form of carbon/stencil – made corrections with the use of Tippex – then attached the stencil onto a drum … placed a handful of A4 sheets at the other end of the ‘machine’ … and simply turned a handle to produce copies one at a time. Having produced as many copies as you required and stapled each set together – BINGO! – you had 100 copies of said publication all ready to be sold in the quads and/or recreational areas in the individual school ‘houses’.

Life was simple then.

Once computers arrived – can anyone tell me when that was? – to all intents and purposes the human race had entered a world in which robots and machines gradually took over control.

Fast forward to the present day.

Is there anything more frustrating in life that working on a computer?

Let’s start with the basics. With a typewriter, you could lay out your page exactly as you wished immediately. Now – and I’m a Windows PC-type man, not an adherent to AppleMacs – in laying out a letter or document, it is absolute pot luck as to whether you can indent a paragraph to the distance you want, or choose one, one and a half, or double spacing between your lines. Why? Because the ‘software’ makes predetermined assumptions as to what you’re trying to do … and will not just allow you do what you want to do. In other words, you have to work ‘with’ the software … or not at all. This is probably fine for the digital generation, i.e. the one after mine, but anyone like me who can remember the good old days of typewriters probably has to be forgiven for thinking to themselves that this isn’t actually a technological advance at all.

My current laptop is approaching four years of age. My brother says that upgrading to a new computer is probably advisable every three or four years and I’m coming rapidly to the view that he may be right.

Mine is getting slower and slower. Based upon what people tell me, and the advice which the middle-of-the-night ‘tekky expert’ on Radio Five Live regularly gives out, this is probably because there are various software packages permanently running in the background, some of which I probably never use. I’m sure of it. When I look down the ‘shortcuts to software’ that my laptop contains on its desktop – counting those that the laptop repair shop around the corner and my own kids have installed ‘in order to set me up’ – I’m bound to estimate that I don’t even know what about 80% of them do.

Then there are viruses. I have my ‘security protection’ software turned up to max and I rarely watch ‘iffy’ content, mostly only when some newspaper website expresses outrage at the content of a porn site and gives its name and address whereupon (like any man of the world) I immediately google it in order to see what all the fuss is about. Thus in my case malware attacks, if they come at all, presumably come from crooks, teenage hackers or scammers.

In any event, I was shocked recently when I went to my ‘Computer’ area and discovered that my hard-drive memory (well ‘memory’ of some sort) capacity of 282 GB – presumably that’s referring to ‘gigga-bytes’? – has only 36.8 GB left. Since my impression is that, say compared to my family and others I come across, I use no more than 20% of the potential capacity of what any computer can offer and/or store, I find this shocking. The last time I remember looking at the same statistics, I was using less than half of my memory capacity.

Overnight – as periodically happens – I had that familiar experience that affects everyone who uses a computer (well a PC-type one). I was happily bumbling along, dealing with my email correspondence, when a little box began flashing on the right edge of the icons along the bottom of my screen. Out of curiousity, presumably as the originator organisation intended, I clicked on it to ‘bring it up’ … and found a message saying that (whomever it was, Microsoft? Windows?) was planning to automatically close down and restart my computer, the better to install some sort of update to its software systems, in 14 minutes and counting down …

This one really gets my goat, even though the computer has the option to postpone the event for 10 minutes at a time by clicking on an icon, or even designate a longer period than 10 minutes before which the shut-down and restart will occur.

The natural and overwhelming human reaction is, of course, to press ‘restart’ immediately and get the bloody thing over with. However, sometimes – as with me about an hour ago – the computer-user is in the middle of something important and simply wishes to finish it before submitting to the inevitable.

Naturally, when the computer had eventually restarted itself and I had signed in, I pressed the ‘Google Chrome’ icon to get on the internet … and found myself embroiled in a waiting pattern because, for whatever reason, the systems were not working as before and instead were taking an age to bring up even the Google home page so that I could get going.

It’s a dog’s life …

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About Arthur Nelson

Looking forward to his retirement in 2015, Arthur has written poetry since childhood and regularly takes part in poetry workshops and ‘open mike’ evenings. More Posts