Hear Me Out


April 14, 1997

"...because they make our lives so much easier."

It was the knee jerk reaction to the 20 year old question, "Why do we need computers anyway?"

I'm sure this is as close to heresy as one who is actively on the web can get, but I really do question the universality of computers. I have a loose grasp of how they work and how to make them do things and I often have to be restrained from doing them bodily harm.

I'm sure technology could have stopped with the Bread Machine. I love ours! Put the stuff in, set the timer and go. I'm not sure we even needed to go as far as the microwave oven. Aside from burning popcorn and ruining microwave dinners, I see no use for them at all. Real food goes in and rubber representations come out.

I train people to use a private on-line information system. In a way, it's like the incredibly nearsighted leading the blind. Half the time I want to break people's fingers and the other half I want to stab myself in the head. The one pet peeve that is likely to drive me over the edge (and believe me, I'm in the car pool lane on this one) is people that buy the best computers on the market and literally don't know how to turn them on.

One guy brought his laptop into the office because it wasn't working and I was the last person to touch it. Therefore, it was my fault. Turns out, he never shut the damn thing off - he merely put it to sleep, so he had NO idea where the actual on/off button was. It was a miracle I didn't liberate that damn machine and hand it over to some seventeen year old geek with Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.

Other examples of people that need to have their information super-highway licenses revoked are those who turn the screen so dark they can't see anything and then complain that it's broken. My other favorite are people who put their own system together and then wonder why nothing works. It is my job to get them on-line and trained. It is not my job to figure out why the modem is singing "Highway to Heaven" every time they dial AOL.

As far as the internet goes, I truly believe it is either the biggest toy or the best library resource in the western world. As with most things, I can't make up my mind. I'll go in there looking for gas prices in San Francisco over the last three years and end up in some medical journal trying to figure out if I have lupus or not. It's a nightmare.

The most frightening thing about this computer/information revolution is my parents ... specifically my dad. Mom has decided she's seen the birth of TV, automatic transmissions and disco - that's enough. My dad on the other hand has gone whole hog. He went from a fairly well equipped Mac LC to some huge PC tower with a gig of memory. He's the father of Bigger-Better-Faster.

About a month ago I heard this message on the machine. "Uh, hello. It's your father." He always has to identify himself and he speaks very slowly so the machine will catch it all. "I had a question for you.... Uh, what is this thing, the internet?"

It sent chills up my spine. He had a hard enough time mastering the idea of files and folders. Now he wants to go on-line? Is nothing sacred? I suspect this is the way boys feel when they find their fathers reading their nudie magazines.

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Copyright 1997 by Laura Jiménez.

Updated 05/02/97
D&S Associates