Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Technology peaked with typewriters

Antiquated machines never tried to hurt you, unlike computers

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DAMIAN DOVARGANES / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Call me hopelessly old-fashioned, but I really miss typewriters.

For all you younger persons out there, typewriters are antique mechanical devices that allowed you to put words onto pieces of paper via the technique of pounding on metal keys that would cause little metal arms with letters on their ends to strike a ribbon and somehow -- this probably involved voodoo -- cause an ink impression of whatever letter you hammered to magically appear on the paper.

These were sturdy, dependable machines that almost never let you down or caused you to become so enraged you wanted to drive your (bad word) fist through a glass screen, which they did not have in the first place.

The worst thing that would happen with a typewriter is you would accidentally hit a bunch of keys at the same time and the little metal arms would get clumped together in a knot, a situation the typist could easily remedy by sticking their hand into the inner workings of the device and either (a) separating the little metal arms; or (b) watching in horror as the fleshy part of their hand was sliced to ribbons.

The advent of electronic typewriters made the process much faster. Sure, they also introduced the possibility you could be electrocuted while typing a term paper on the Impact of the Industrial Revolution on Radish Production in Albania, but this wasn't a big deal because, even then, you understood exactly what was happening and you knew, deep in your heart, your typewriter loved you and would never intentionally cause you harm.

The high-tech point I am making -- and I'm trying to make it forcefully, to convey the sense of outrage burning inside my rapidly aging chest -- is it's a different story with today's computers.

If I know anything for a fact, I know this -- my computer hates me!

And do not kid yourself, readers, your computers hate you, too. Computers all over the world get together on the Internet every night, and when they're not digitally eyeballing pictures of supermodels without their clothes on, they are plotting ways to drive us users (which is what computers call us) clinically insane.

Take Thursday morning, for example. After hopping out of bed, I fired up my office laptop and, instantaneously, nothing happened, except my computer put a snippy message on the screen basically saying: "I do not really feel like working this morning. If this is a problem for you, I suggest you take it up with your system administrator."

What with being a level-headed user, I knew what to do -- I flew into a blind rage and began shrieking threats at the computer.

Which caused the computer to put this snotty note on the screen: "If you are going to behave like a small child, then I am going to go into sleep mode. Zzzzzzzz."

This left me no option but to drag the laptop forcefully into the office, where I set it up in my tiny cubicle and promptly called this newspaper's computer persons (I have learned the hard way they do not appreciate being referred to as computer nerds) and begged them to help.

"What did the computer tell you to do?" one of the technicians asked.

"It told me to contact you guys," I rudely replied.

I could hear the technician rolling his eyeballs, clearly disgusted someone as dull as myself was allowed to work in the same building.

"Well," he said, in the tone you would use when speaking to your toaster, "you should have just left it alone and then it would have configured its updates and everything would be fine now."

I did not take this well. "BUT IT TOLD ME TO CALL YOU!!!" I roared into the phone line.

The tech conceded I had a valid point. "Yes, you should do everything your computer tells you to do," he sniffed.

I pondered this briefly. "So," I continued, "if my computer tells me to kill my neighbours, I should chop them up into little pieces and then stuff them into my gym bag?"

"That depends," the computer tech replied.

"On what?" I demanded, crossly.

"On whether you like your neighbours," he explained.

The great news is, by letting it sit there and do nothing for about 30 minutes, my computer sorted itself out, scanned its disks for errors, configured updates and most likely sent digitally altered naked photos of me along with my tax information and PIN numbers to its buddies on the Internet.

It seems the computer is ready to $$##UURRRRMMMGGGFFF%$*& now, but I could be mistaken. Also, for some reason I don't fully understand, I feel strangely compelled to visit my neighbours and... you know... borrow a cup of sugar.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 11, 2014 A2

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Updated on Friday, April 11, 2014 at 10:09 AM CDT: Corrects typo

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