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High-tech dreams clash with computer's desires

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2002

I'm guilty. I admit it.

I have worked for a newspaper consistently for the last 11 years. And during that time, I've sat behind a desk with a large glowing object on it, and I still don't understand what makes it tick.

I know I'm not alone by any means. I have had co-workers along every step of the way who are just as baffled as I am. And my husband, Mark, well, let's just say between the two of us, we're lucky to get e-mail.

I'm talking computers here. Those wonderful information tools that frustrate the heck out of people more than the IRS! OK, maybe that's pushing it, but it's close.

What I admit to is a huge lack of knowledge when it comes to computers. I know what I need to know to get through my day. But the moment it starts flashing messages at me -- and nasty ones at that -- I start to hyperventilate. That's mainly because I can never remember if I saved the project I have been working on for the last three hours.

I know I am at fault. My job is clear, and I know what I have to do to be successful each day and not bomb along the way. So when something goes wrong -- and it eventually does -- I know I must have done something horrendously stupid to bring on the wrath of Apple.

But it's those times when I haven't done anything and suddenly my computer goes off on a tangent and decides it's time to spice things up around the newsroom.

"Anybody else frozen?" is a phrase commonly shouted -- and I'm not just talking about our heating system.

Fortunately, at the Clarion, there is help.

"Hello, Pat? My computer's acting up again," is another common phrase in the newsroom. That's when our computer guru, Pat Porter, springs into action.

Unfortunately, Pat isn't at my house when I need her.

What kind of newspaper woman -- or human, for that matter -- would I be to not have a computer at home? Not having a home computer is like not having indoor plumbing these days.

So, despite the clumps of hair I keep on my desk as frequent reminders of my computer frustrations, Mark and I own a computer.

We've had our current model for four years, and things actually were going along pretty well until Christmas. Then I opened my big mouth.

"I've been thinking," I still remember those innocent words flowing from my lips. "We should get a digital camera. Then we could e-mail photos to family and friends."

Mark, being a firm believer that bigger and more are definitely better, actually lit up. I knew immediately I hit the jackpot with this idea.

Trouble is, Mark is even less computer literate than I am.

No I am not slamming my husband, this actually is true.

When Mark sends an e-mail, it goes like this:

"Honey, how do you send an e-mail?"

"You open that box right there ..."

"Which one?"

"Here, let me show you."

"Do you want to sit down?"

"OK. Who are you sending it to?"

"Russ. Tell him I got his message and to call me ... ."

He's very smooth.

To make it worse, he's even gone so far as to stand over my shoulder and correct my spelling. I've created a monster!

Mark knows just enough about everything to get him in trouble. I should have clued into this when he started talking about upping the computer memory and blah, blah, blah.

But I couldn't say no. How could I look in those dancing eyes and deny him the joy of exploring the world of computers?

Next time, I'll know better.

I was a little more than relieved when Mark invited a more knowledgeable computer friend over to make the changes. What I didn't know was my simple idea of making our computer digital-camera friendly had somehow turned into a major overhaul.

Mark and his buddy started the overhaul in two phases. The initial phase took the hard drive -- or tower, I think it's called -- out of the house so it could be connected to a faster system for testing. It was back within a day and little had changed.

Phase two would not be so simple.

Mark's friend came to the house early in the afternoon while I was at work. Upon my arrival home, I walked to our home office doorway and saw what initially looked like brain surgery. All of the computer's innards were outards.

"It's not as bad as it looks," Mark said, seeing the panicked look on my face.

Slowly they pieced it together -- I think. I went to bed.

The next morning I bounded (yes, I have been known to bound) into our office and turned on our new toy. Unfortunately, I

couldn't check e-mail because the system

hadn't adjusted to its new surroundings yet. And the program I needed to use for teaching my dog agility classes was missing, and ... .

Bigger, better and faster was now bigger, not so good and nonexistent.

To top it off, I still don't know if we can use the digital camera yet. But even if we could, the e-mail hasn't been working right, and the printer has stopped printing.

Sigh.

I keep telling myself it was a good idea, although I have no clue as to when it will come to fruition. Mark and his friend assure me it will.

Until then, there is one good thing that has come out of all of this, as Mark pointed out. The photo of my dog Bailey on the desktop is much sharper and brighter than it used to be.

That's good, because guess who's going to have an opportunity to enjoy that photo when he's sending his own e-mails from now on?

Dori Lynn Anderson is the Peninsula Clarion's copy and features editor.



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