About Being A Computer Moron!
-Fred Stock

    I am told the 12-step programs like AA and OA require an admission early in their sequence that one has a problem. You can’t fix a problem until you admit you have a problem. OK, Coach, I’m ready! Now it seems unlikely, since I have spent over fifty years as an electronic technician, even operated a computer store with my spouse, and spent years developing successful internet websites, even with all that, I admit I am a computer moron!

    Not likely, you say? Listen! I had to get my granddaughter to teach me to text on the cellular phone. Still don’t know how to text a message to a number they show on the baseball broadcast. Oh well! My grandson is the only way I can get my TV remote programmed. And I’ve decided I’ll never buy a Blackberry - I’m afraid of it! Ever seen the film about the kid who interrupted the Defense Department computer? Could that be me? Maybe it’s a function of becoming “the old guy” I’ve become, I don’t know. Maybe there are lots of compu-doofusses like me as we near seven decades of life, yah think? (I try not to do that too often.)

    Case in point; My whole business is run from a computer. Oh, I have back-ups like they preach to us at every turn, but they are mixed in with perhaps 7-million other files on a big hard disk with about 700-Gigabytes of space. The kids tell me that’s pretty huge even today. Yikes! Trying to find a single file in that thing is like trying to find a single lost key somewhere in Joshua Tree National Park. Without a map. In a wind storm. In August! Great Zagg! Anyway, a few weeks ago I was looking at the computer and decided it was running a little slow. Solution? Delete unnecessary files. Great! Started to delete and discovered a little program called a “registry cleaner“. That sounds good, so open that. Ahah! A section marked “duplicate files” with a button marked “delete”. Oh great - I don’t want duplicate files in there - that’s like trying to ride two bicycles at once, right? Press DELETE.

    Right away the pop-up box says “Deleting 32,864 Files“. No! NO! Press escape - nothing! Press every button you see one at a time in rapid succession. Nothing! The little internal drive is spinning and the light blinking. Is that thing cackling at me? Yikes! It’s like looking up and seeing a comet the size of the Great Salt Lake coming right down on you. You know it’s over and you can’t do anything except grab for the aspirin bottle to prevent a stroke! Pretty soon the screen changes, and the message reads, “Several files needed to run windows have been deleted. Insert your original Windows installation disk and press the button below.” Great, now where is that disk. You search through about 350 CD’s in a file cabinet, perhaps 60 more in a rack over in the corner - Hey! Here’s my Ray Charles and Betty Carter jazz CD I’ve been looking for! But no installation disk. Rummage through the desk drawer, look in a box in the closet, call my son - Oh shoot! His is a different brand and won’t work here. Then the machine says “The program has timed out and will close.” Bee-boop! The screen goes black, but the light is still blinking! Oh MY! Then the message in crude white type; “Windows cannot restart because the following file is missing or corrupt: C:\Window\system32\ntdvm.exe” or some such. Groan.

    Then begins two solid weeks of working with some fantastic technicians (I mean really magnificant!) in a suburb of New Delhi. Did you know they can set up a program with your cooperation where they can actually see and manipulate your desktop from there? I guess they started using that about two hours into the first day after trying so hard to get a complete putz (me) to press the correct button and select the correct option. I could hear the frustration in the man’s voice as he very professionally asked, “Sir, I would like to try something else! I would like to gain use of your desktop by remote control with your permission. May we do that, sir?” And the relief in his voice when I said “Certainly!” was clearly detectable half a planet away!

    That gentleman, several others, and another whole group in another part of the same city in India, worked literally for three solid days via remote control, as I sat and watched fascinated! Wasn’t it just a short time ago I was learning what a floppy disk was for? And a “mouse” - my gosh! And now I am watching codes and screens about which I have no idea,  flashing across my dual screens. Low and behold, after nearly a week and a half, I have the machine working well enough that I can type this missive. Oh, there are little things I have yet to solve - how to get to my business records, how to locate those pictures of the grandkids and their folks… little things like that. But I can watch MLB.com again! Let’s get our priorities sorted out, here! My goodness!

    It brings to mind a basic premise of computer ownership; it is best to have some kind of idea about what a command or a button does before you try executing it. After all, mine just responded in kind; after I executed a button, it nearly executed my business! Serves me right, I guess! Anyway, back in the days when the “RESET” button on your computer “tower” was a point of nearly daily activity, the grandkids were on the phone with daddy who was at work. “We have this problem… what should we do?” Dad instructed them to “push the red button on the back of the main computer tower.” Well, the tower was pushed against the wall, way at the back of the big desk. There were cables and wires and plugs and adaptors all over the place back there. The two little kids obediently slid it toward them a little bit and one crawled up on top of the desk to look for a red button. I can hear them in my mind even though I wasn’t there. “Oh, there it is. I’ll need a pencil or something to press it - it’s inside a little plastic frame. OK, here goes.” Spaff! Spitt-sputter-crackle! A burning smell and smoke wafting from the vents on the side of the tower. “Quick, unplug it!” “Hey, Daddy?…” Turns out there were two red buttons back there. One was the reset button, the other was marked “110V-220V”. The grandkids couldn’t have seen that between all the cables. The power supply inside the tower just fried! Great Goobajooba!

    By the way, contrary to what you may have heard, computers don’t remember things. For instance, when you blow up a file that they have had to use every day (like that system32\ntdvm.exe file I killed?) the machine will not say, “Yah know? I think I remember how that file went. Here, let me try to do it…” But Noooooo! It just sits there demanding a new copy of the file, and defying your best loving approaches and worst threatening invective both! My gracious!

    And you get very familiar with messages you probably didn’t want to know about, too! “Running Processes After Installation.” Huh? This is the one that hurt my feelings… “Please wait while the update wizard evaluates your level of lunacy to determine if you are likely to make this stupid move again.” It’s a bit intimidating when the pop-up box reads, “Performing Clean-Up! Don’t do anything! If you touch any key or your mouse, a team of big smelly guys will come to your house and scream evil songs at your hubcaps.” Then the inevitable one, “YOU NEED TO RESTART YOUR COMPUTER NOW.” Well, of course I do. That’s what I was trying to do two and a half weeks ago, for Pete‘s sake!

     Finally, as in all good lesson outlines, we come to the end and the question, “What have we learned?” Well, let’s see. 1) I’m a bona fide computer moron. Accept that and deal with it. 2) When you see a program marked “registry cleaner”, understand it is built with dynamite, nitroglycerine and kitchen matches. Do not use it, do not look at it, do not even think about that! Find the little “X” in the top right corner of that window and press it! Do nothing else! 3) The New Delhi schools apparently teach better technical students than the ones in Silicon Valley. 4) If your computer slows down, trust me, so will you sooner or later, and it’s just pre-adjusting to your unavoidable progression (regression?). Start by admitting, as I have, “Yes, I have a problem“. I’m a computer moron. My index finger is large enough to hit four or more adjacent buttons at the same time, and apparently my digital IQ is low enough that I won’t notice when I do it. (My lawd, what did I ever do without spell-checkers?) Sometimes, the best thing to do about progress, is step the heck out of its way. And… that’s OK. -fhs