International Writers Magazine: Lifestyle technology
Technology & Other Animals
I retired as Honorary British Consul and handed over the workload
to my successor, not only did she (the new HBC is a female) inherit
the day to day problems of Brits getting into trouble; she took
over all the paperwork and was handed all the gadgetry to go with
it. I lost my fax machine, my high speed digital line, my mobile
phone and my PC.
I had to revert
to my seven year old portable Compaq Presario with its incorporated
dial up modem in order to access my personal e-mails and navigate through
the web for whatever search I was looking for at any moment in time.
Im sure youre all familiar with the slow speed of a 56Kbit
modem and the frustration of reading the essays on Hacks let alone checking
the international press to see what next George Bush is up to in the
So I decided to invest in my own ISDN line and search the local high
tech shops for a new computer. Like any dumb consumer, I began caressing
a super duper portable sitting on the show stand that was on sale at
50% of its original price whilst a snazzy salespersons worked me over
explaining the latest incorporated software that could almost serve
you bacon and eggs in the morning at a programmed 07:30 kick off. Lets
get it straight! Im not a computer buff, nor do I spend hours
on end trying to identify every little icon that appears on each page
of the machine. Ive learned to use word processing as best I could
and whenever I learn a new trick, like any other circus performing seal,
if I dont use it constantly, Doctor Alzheimer takes over and Ive
soon forgotten how the hell I was able to cut and paste
my latest essay. Believe me, Odysseys HAL is Mr Simpleton compared
to todays computers.
As far as the web is concerned, apart from being almost saturated with
all kinds of information its in a constant mode of change and
am sure that the majority of users, unless they are sitting before a
screen 24 hours a day will soon be reverting back to their psychiatrist
for treatment on what I would call ITW or Internet Withdrawal
Syndrome. But lets bisect the beast and examine each of
its parts to see how some of us old timers are slowly growing tired
of fighting the animal and why. Back to my purchase.
I got home, switched it on, and waited for it to go through the motions,
like a Genie creeping out of its bottle, went through the procedure
of copying a back-up disk with the operating system, installed
my printer (Ah! I forgot to mention. I had two printers; an HP LaserJet
and a cheap ink cartridge Cannon. Her Majestys Government was
only interested in the expensive one) and then it began to talk to me!
Every kind of window kept appearing on the screen asking me to perform
some sort of task in order to ensure the proper functioning of the software.
Then the adverts started! You need spam protection! was
the first to try the hard sell. Then along came the dreaded virus warning
signals! Oh! For Gods sake, I thought to myself, am
I as stupid and vulnerable as to sit here shouting and swearing at this
piece of junk? I managed to shut all the fancy flashing signals
off and go back to the beginning. It calmed down and kept quiet. I began
to search for Bill Gates biography. I looked everywhere from the
Control Panel to the Dustbin. Idiot! It had
no Windows programmes! I was able to search the Internet OK and even
kicked off my e-mail system using my personal address but unable to
perform any word processing or other niceties that come with Office.
I called up the shop. You forgot to buy the software, sir,
was the answer. I put it back in its case and gave it to my daughter
who spends most of her time chatting around the world with her friends.
She was delighted! So what next?
I finally succumbed to the idea that I knew bugger all about anything
related to the modern world of communications. I decided to go to a
specialist; an IT consulting firm. I explained that all I needed was
to be able to write silly stories, search Internet for information as
well as read the international newspapers from around the world and
communicate with my retired friends, my relatives, my local MP and my
publishers. Within a week I was supplied with I wanted, virus protection
included and its working fine. Im as happy as Larry. So I thought!
Ive got a friend who keeps sending me dirty jokes. Apart from
millions of megabytes of rubbish that clog up my PC, Ive passed
the stage of girly pictures and jokes about dirty old men, so I usually
erase them straight off the bat. Then one day, on opening the web, instead
of good old Google coming up on the screen a strange page
appeared advising me that I had been attacked by a virus and that I
should immediately install the protection that this page was offering.
A few seconds later all kinds of instructions kept popping up giving
me the latest statistics of infection! Pardon the expression but, bloody
hell! I thought, where did all this crap come from?
Now this is where help is always at hand. Thanks to having purchased
my system from the experts, I called them up. Quick in response, within
a day were round at my home/office and flushed out the rats lurking
within my machinery. I asked them why this had happened, although I
already sensed the answer. Nowadays sir, you cannot trust anybody
on the network. That is why it is always useful to keep us on call!
Another hard sell I suppose. I now sit before my screen, very carefully
selecting my pages and making absolutely sure that I dont go into
any scary territory that will send me back to the out
patients of the informatics clinic. But the web is not the only
beast that has gone berserk in todays modern age.
When the web was first released to humanity, it was clean, simple and
easy to use. It had the added advantage of messaging that would eventually
take over all other forms of communication known to man. The e-mail
system was invented and good old Outlook Express seemed poised to conquer
the world. As time went by, institutions, governments, companies, media
and all sorts of weird beings began to send each other messages and
other information. But the inevitable happened. As more and more bits
of digital information floated around the ether so did more rubbish
get accidently or purposefully attached to the same. Like a rotten apple
in a barrel, the good ones became infected. Send an e-mail to a friend
and he may have his spam killer rejecting your message.
Equally cautious are many outfits out there that will screen even their
grandmothers will if sent over the net and send it rushing to
the dump bin. Users are becoming more and more aware of the fact that
if they try to talk to somebody using e-mail they may or may not be
lucky and get through. Attaching a document or a webpage is an added
drawback, as many virus goofs use this system to constantly pry on the
net and try to catch as many suckers as they can. So what is the effect?
You wont believe it but we are slowly going back to using the
fax. No kidding! Change of subject; how about the mobile phone?
Now here you have the latest do-it-yourself XXI gadget. Ive touched
this subject before and am sure that what I said then was about a century
out of date! But, back to the beginning of his essay; I had also lost
my consular mobile (10 years old!) and thus was without a telephone
service during out of house hours. Luckily my son, who is a freelance
interpreter came to the rescue and gave both me and my wife a new model
for Christmas. Great guy my son! After weeks of trying to figure out
how to program it, my wife gave up and stored it away in her knitting
basket. I began to fidget with my own. I have learned so far to shoot
a short video or take a photo; I can send messages, store phone numbers
and obviously make phone calls. However, when I turned up at my wine
drinking club with my new toy my fellow boozers told me
that it didnt contain the latest technology on the market. I cant
use it as a navigation tool in my car! It then hit me. Just like with
my computer, I told myself, if I can keep track of my family by
phone and send the odd message to a friend saying that Ill arrive
a bit late to his funeral, I dont really need anything else.
With all the problems going on in todays world my philosophy continued,
does humanity really need all the extras offered by todays
Am I missing something?
© James G. Skinner. March 4th 2008.
Country for Aches and Pains
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