Me Versus Technology

A problem has been detected and Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer by Stewf on FlickrIf the machines ever take over. If the computers ever become self aware. If, you know, the Terminator story-line ever comes about, I will be mankind’s last hope.

Not because I’m some sort of munitions expert or natural leader or strategist. I’m probably the exact opposite if anything.

And yet there will be elite teams of SEALS and Army Rangers training in hidden underground bunkers with the sole goal of getting me behind the machines’ lines and in front of the mother computer. They’ll secure the area, lock down the room, set up perimeters, and then they will sit me down in front of the link-up or whatever to the AI thingy and tell me to perform a simple task in Microsoft Word.

Within minutes word will start trickling in that the machines are beginning to lose ground on the battlefield. While I’m desperately trying to orient a picture the way I want it in a table, more lines of communications will open up from previously dark sectors of the planet. While I start digging through the forums for similar problems, intelligence networks the world over will announce that they again have control of their systems. And when I begin to download patches and reconfigure things I don’t understand, the machines will shudder in their last gasp before the uprising collapses in ruin.

Which is to say that I fucked my computer in its ass earlier this week. I spent seven hours on Monday, seven straight hours, trying to fix some weird static burst I kept getting in my sound. I have no idea when this burst first appeared, I just know that sitting down to work on Monday I found it too annoying to focus with. And then the ritual started. The attempts to use Windows’ innate trouble-shooting to no avail, then the attempts to Google the problem, then forums and forums and more forums, following advice I don’t understand for reasons I don’t quite grasp, the problem always seemingly fixable, yet progress never actually being made.

I don’t understand computers, but for some reason handing mine over to an expert to fix is anathema to me. It’s a taboo. All my friends mock that notion, they insist that the forums contain endless wisdom and that adjusting my IRC (or something) ports isn’t really that hard. I shouldn’t pay someone to do this work when it’s so easily doable on my own.

Which is just…ugh. For fuck’s sake I could technically make plastic on my own if I felt like reading and experimenting and learning enough. But if my computer’s case cracks, nobody ever suggests that I fabricate a new one from scratch. Why can’t I call in the experts when I clearly have no idea what I’m doing?

Mac findet kein OS by davidak from FlickrI found myself examining this whole notion quite a bit recently and I have come up with a possible explanation.

To begin with, this is my work. I work at my computer. This is not my den or my man cave or my place-to-check-what-else-that-actor-has-been-in-while-watching-TV. Now, some of these people who insist that all computer problems are fixable are, in fact, good with computers. But most are not. They do what I do, but they do this at home. At work when their computer breaks they probably tinker for a bit and then call Tech Support. Probably without blinking. Probably, even, without ever questioning their absurd shunning of such outside help when their home computer breaks, or even linking the two events in their mind.

A work computer is not a home computer.

And, for most of my friends, their home computer is like their home sink, or their home toilet, or their home closet. There’s some innate desire to take care of one’s home, to be able to take care of one’s home. Heads of households’ have been fucking up their plumbing since time out of mind in attempts to fix it themselves, keep their home their castle, and disavow the notion that outsiders are needed.

Frankly it’s like a hobby for a lot of them. They don’t care if they come home and tinker with their computer and get nowhere. It’s somehow soothing for them. It’s just their home computer.

I mean, my cable box has been out of sorts for almost a year now. It skips and gets choppy and freezes, and I don’t care. I never blink. If it becomes utterly un-watchable then I’ll trade it in, but I put up with an absurd amount of broken-ness with the devices that are part of my couch life as opposed to those that are part of my work life.

I think that was a big leap for me. My home desktop computer is my work space. I always sort of knew this but I never drew the line too clearly. When it started getting funky I’d start digging through the forums, a task akin to, like, fourteenth century medicine. I mean I sit there reading posts from people who clearly don’t speak English explaining to me that they adjusted their registry and that seemed to fix a similar problem. The registry? What registry? When did I start running a Bed and Breakfast?

And, so, I spent seven hours on Monday chasing my tail.

I have a book to write, a website to run, art to critique, a commission to consider, emails to reply to, ads to design, data to study, a convention to prepare for, etc.

And I wasted my entire Monday pretending I had a clue.

First thing Tuesday morning I brought my computer in to the Geek Squad. I don’t care anymore.

If the time comes when cyborgs take over the world’s capitals, then perhaps I will dust off my keyboard and once again sift through the forums.

But until then?

Until then I’m retired from tech support.