Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How reliant we are on computers

If you're one of those rare people who actually checks into this weblog on a regular basis, you will have noticed there was nothing fresh on Monday.

My days-old commentary about the coming of winter-like weather had to suffice for an extra day.

IT IS BECAUSE I experienced technical glitches so severe that I had to break down on Monday and spend some money in order to buy myself a new computer. My now-former laptop computer developed a glitch so severe that I could no longer rely upon it to write copy.

I could still scan the internet. But there were certain letters on my keyboard that no longer functioned properly.

Such as the letter "o," which everytime I hit that key would cause the keyboard to start spewing out an endless supply of o's that would have turned my thoughts into even more gibberish than they already were.

And yes, in this particular case, I know exactly what provoked my 3 1/2-year-old computer to crash. A few drops of Coca-Cola got spilled into the part of the keyboard where O, L and P congregate.

IT WAS ENOUGH to make my old device functionally useless and require me to buy my new HP-brand computer, which came already loaded with Windows 8 -- so I get an upgrade technologically for my moments of clumsiness last week.

As it was, I filed the commentary about winter weather from a computer at a public library -- which isn't something I relish the thought of doing on a regular basis.

Besides, too much of my living as a freelance writer requires that I have a functioning keyboard to grind out copy -- along with a reliable way of transmitting it via e-mail.

Which is a condition I suspect most of us deal with in our lives these days. In fact, it amazed me just how cut off I felt from the rest of the world during this past weekend with an inability to just log on to my laptop computer and check things out.

ADMITTEDLY, I STILL had a functioning smart-phone (one of those Nokia Lumia devices) that allowed me to continue to check my e-mail (which I rely on for work-related messages) and to do limited checking of the Internet.

Although off those dinky little screens, it becomes a pain in the buttocks to try to read anything of any length on any particular website.

As it is, this is the first piece of copy I am writing on my new machine. I'm trying to get the feel of how it functions, and my ability to grind out copy is definitely slowed as I try to figure out how all of this works.

Because this particular laptop computer actually looks more like my smart-phone. It seems like it is designed for people who want to view their machines as something to play with -- rather than just a tool to do actual work with.

THEN AGAIN, I always suspected that I was different than many people (particularly the younger generation) in that I'm interested in the actual content I'm viewing on this machine -- rather than spending time on the machine itself.

If all of this reads like I'm some sort of aging malcontent who can't quite get with the program, perhaps you're right. Because a part of me wonders how much different the next laptop computer I purchase will be from this machine.

It definitely makes me reminisce fondly of the first laptop I ever purchased -- one that I managed to get seven years worth of use out of. That is a statistic that manages to amaze every technological geek I ever encounter.

They seem to be too used to the idea of replacing something every couple of years.

ALTHOUGH I DO have to admit to one bit of pleasure from my new purchase -- the price.

For someone who can be a cheap as I can be at times, I was amazed at how inexpensive these devices have become.

Particularly since that aforementioned first laptop cost just over $1,000, while the second one (the one that died last week due to Atlanta's finest soft drink) cost me just over $600.

This one was about $475 -- and that includes a couple of upgrades to add memory, along with all the taxes that assorted county, state and federal entities added to my purchase.

WILL THE DAY come when I can get one of these overelaborate typewriters (I am old enough to remember when professional copy was typed out on actual paper, then mailed to a publisher via the U.S. Postal Service) for a couple hundred bucks?

Perhaps. But I'm also wondering if the day is coming when the machines will be designed to take my oral dictation and convert it into printed words; including all the "uhs," "ums" and "you knows?"

Somehow, it doesn't sound like progress to me.


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