Computers are the (La Brea) pits

If a person limits their television viewing to shows without the words “real,” “cupcake,” “toddlers,” or “Oprah” in the title, that person doesn’t watch much television. Not that that is a bad thing. But I do like to watch the reporters on “60 Minutes” back bad guys into a corner. It is beyond me why any bad guy would agree to appear on “60 Minutes.” Things are going great for them as they work their nefarious schemes. They are cheating people or running sweat shops or doing something equally dastardly. Why go public? Maybe they think they will be the one — the one — to finally outsmart Steve Kroft.

It was a relatively benign segment on that show which featured gains in computer technology. My experience with gains in computer technology has been, by the time you talk about them, write a story about them, and film them, they are obsolete. The good folks at Google were interviewed on “60 Minutes” to discuss their part in the grand expansion of on-line knowledge. I like Google. I use Google. I have Google as number two on my list of favorites. But I look at all on-line information with a somewhat jaundiced eye after I typed in “decalage” (the difference in angle between the upper and lower wing of a biplane) and some search engine wanted to know if I meant “décolletage” (a low neckline on a garment).

With a laughing tone that clearly indicated “you just won’t believe what I’m about to show you,” the Google guy led the reporter to a shelf of what he called “computer dinosaurs.” These were items that were deemed so hopelessly outmoded they warranted being put on display like a two-headed calf. The stuff on the shelf — the made-fun-of, the piteously passé, the yes, let’s say it, dinosaur — this is the stuff I have.

I am not too techno-savvy, see? It takes me a while to learn how to use the gizmos on a computer. Notice that I don’t say I learn about all the gizmos. I am happy if I can retrieve my email and write a paragraph or two. Plus, the fact that I call them gizmos is sort of illustrative of my level of competence. Once a computer has surrendered a few of its operating secrets to me, I am somewhat hesitant to trade it in and by somewhat hesitant I mean I go kicking and screaming to the place where someone will replace my dinosaur with an item designed in the twenty-first century. When my old laptop finally went on life support, we were forced to pull the plug. Literally. The thing would work for only about two or three minutes on the battery and we had to keep it plugged in all the time. It often failed to start up at all. Strange grinding noises — the computer death-rattle — came out of it most of the time. I took this relic to the computer store and endured the scorn of a young man who could not believe there was a fourteen year old laptop still in existence. It’s possible he was himself not fourteen years old.

My other computer, the great big one in my office that is hooked with tangled umbilical cords to a tower and a printer and a scanner and a USB hub, recently became reluctant to execute any function except “sit on the desk.” Since this particular function isn’t especially useful, I took it to the same place that sold me my new (?) laptop.

Another young man plugged it in, punched some buttons, and announced what was wrong with it. I assume this is what he said but since I understand computer talk about as well as I understand Swahili, he could have been ordering take-out. Speaking deliberately and distinctly, like you would to a very slow second grader, he explained I had too few giga-somethings and too many viruses. A very slow second grader probably would grasp this in heartbeat.

Now both my computers are working great. Everything is great. It’s only a matter of time before Steve Kroft shows up.

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By Marla Boone

Contributing columnist

Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.