The Ephemeral Nature of Technology

The Ephemeral Nature of Technology August 17, 2016

"Computer" by George Hodan. Public domain image courtesy of
“Computer” by George Hodan. Public domain image courtesy of

You may have wondered why you haven’t heard from me, even to post videos, for a couple of weeks.  Well, here’s the story:

I spilled coffee on my morning breakfast table.  It seemed to have missed my little Notebook, which I have become accustomed to taking everywhere with me — even the tub — so I wiped it up and thought nothing more of it.  Well, apparently I was wrong.  Later on that day when I sat down to work, I found that the Enter key no longer worked.

Well, damn.  But fortunately my nephew, who knows a thing or two about Frankensteining computers, figured he could just take it apart and clean the keyboard.  He promised me that he would do this before he got on the bus to go back home later that day.  I thanked him and went to work.

Ha!  I got home to find a note that it hadn’t worked.  Well, at least he tried.  Good luck, Auntie!

My roommate had a brainstorm that I thought was particularly brilliant.  “Why don’t you get one of those roll-up silicone keyboards?” he suggested.  “You were making noises like you wanted one anyway.”

I thought this was a stroke of genius!  Yes, I had been wanting one; I wanted to hunch over my little Notebook less when I was out and about and intending to type for long periods of time.  What a good idea!  So I started calling around; Best Buy, the Source, Staples, London Drugs. Everyone told me the same thing: “Have you tried our online catalogue?”

NO!” I finally screamed at the poor hapless twenty-something girl who worked at the Source.  “Listen; if I’m going online, why would I order something from you?  You’re going to charge me $40 or $50, and I can get the same thing on Amazon for less than $20.  And it won’t get here any faster!  You’re a big box store!  If you don’t have stuff like this in stock, what the hell do we need you for?”  I hung up; which I have to say was far more satisfying when I was a little girl, because we had solid-state rotary phones then and you could slam them down with a satisfying wham! without smashing them to pieces.

So I opened up the back of the computer myself, figuring I could find a YouTube how-to video somewhere (they seem to have them for everything) and found that in order to get to the keyboard I would have had to take the whole thing completely apart from the bottom up.  Not confident in my ability to do this, I took it to the local repair guy, a friendly man whose business is called euphemistically “Henry’s Dad”.  He fired it up with a wireless keyboard instead of its integrated one, and found something called BitLocker.

Some of you know and have just let out an exasperated groan in sympathy for me.  Others require an explanation.  Apparently BitLocker is a super-special “security feature” that was integrated into Windows 8 to protect the data on your hard drive in case someone tried to steal it.  To unlock it you need the original boot disk.  So mine was pre-installed when I bought the computer from Staples . . .

I probably should have installed Windows 10 like everybody else, but by then I had already installed an emulator (because I loathed the Windows 8 interface!) and I saw no need to fix it, since it worked for me just fine.  I sure as sh*t would have if I’d known about this!  Thanks, Bill!  If I send you my computer, will you replace my hard drive now?  <*sshole>

Long and the short of it?  Now I need both a new hard drive and a new keyboard.  Might as well buy a new computer; it’s cheaper.

My luck wasn’t quite out; fortunately I had saved every important thing on Dropbox, so what I’ve actually lost, aside from the hardware, was a few minor graphics, some bookmarks I never look at anyway, and an e-book I had recently downloaded.  Thank the gods for that!  Cloud technology; I really love it.

But then the battery in my cell phone, which has been weakening for a while, decided to pack it in.  The. Same. Day.

So after the scream of rage had finished reverberating through the mountains and I had mopped up the bloody bits of my scalp where my hair used to be before I tore it out, I searched out new equipment that I couldn’t afford but still had to have.  I eventually found a replacement cell phone battery at a nice, old-fashioned battery shop that’s been around since I was a small child.  Yay for something that works!

The replacement computer?  Not so much.  Apparently all the stuck-up arrogant technosnobs that work at all the big box computer places (which are the only ones left) think that Notebooks are passe.  “They don’t make anything smaller than twelve inches anymore,” one told me (and I would like it to fit in my bag, or what f*cking use is it?)  “They’re not very good,” sneered a pimple-faced seventeen year old punk at another store like he knew anything about life (and like he knew anything about computers, which he obviously didn’t, because my little Notebook was working just fine, thank you very much, until Windows 8 wrecked it; guess that doesn’t matter when Daddy can still afford to buy you the very best new gaming computer and you play it seven hours a day because you still live at home).

I shopped around and it was the same in every store in town and the discount box store in the next town over; my choice was either a big, clunky laptop like the half-broken one in my study, with the battery that falls out and the crooked screen and the one busted USB port and, again, with a broken keyboard; or a tablet.  Well, when you’re a writer and the only program you really care whether or not it works properly is Microsoft Word, you don’t want the pared-down Microsoft Word app for phone and tablet (which, until recently was not even available for Android, and the best you could do was a copycat program that completely reformatted your entire document — trust me, I tried).  No, you need the one that can track changes, make annotations, and, best of all, automatically bookmark your headings so you don’t have to scroll through the whole document to get back to where you were, which takes a while when you’re three quarters into the novel you’re writing, I can tell you!  I went home deeply discouraged.

My partner offered to “lend” me his broken down old Notebook (a few generations older than mine) but you know how that goes, with the “lending” of the computer.  He needed it back at awkward times.  He didn’t let me take it when I did drop-in readings, which was one of my prime blog writing time-slots.  He wouldn’t let me listen to ASMR videos when I was trying to fall asleep unless he was working a graveyard shift.  “Lending,” indeed.  I gave up.

But I suppose I’ll let him live because he discovered the exact same Notebook as the one I lost, for a very reasonable price on Ebay (like I said, if I’m going to order online anyway, why the hell do I need box stores?)  The only hitch is the four to ten business days shipping time.  I need it to arrive by the 31st because I’m going on a long vacation then.  So fingers crossed, and if any of you would be kind enough to ask Hermes or Mercury to intervene on my behalf, I’d be grateful.

In the meantime, I went back to my broken old laptop and tried to get it to work properly again.  Turns out as long as I don’t move it at all, and after I insisted on shutting off the power saver settings so I could defragment properly, it works just fine.  I got a wireless keyboard (which takes up the only working USB port), and once I had finished slogging through my email to find all my login information again I was able to get this column up and running.  I still don’t remember the password to my Google account though. <sigh>

But that’s the nature of technology, isn’t it?  Just as soon as you begin rely on it, it fails you.  I wonder what we would all do if some vast EMP from solar flares destroyed all access to computers?  Not only would our entire world economy fall apart in days and our civilization in weeks, but having seen how teenagers communicate, I expect that everyone under the age of twenty would simply spin around in circles, unable to function.  Phones and computers are so integrated into our lives that we no longer know how to interact without them.

Ah well, maybe that’s a good thing.  You know what I did, once the computer withdrawal had started to fade?  I got caught up on some reading!  You see, there’s these things with pages called books . . .

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