It may take some convincing, some kicking, screaming and foot-dragging, but when a writer finally gets “computerized,” she soon forgets what life was like without one. Gone are the days of carbon paper, correction fluid and endless retypes. They are quickly replaced by long nights in front of a blank screen, instruction manual in hand.
Shortly after I was finally able to decipher the installation procedures and start working, the six o’clock news began reporting evil computer virus stories. While my mind filled with visions of mysterious gremlins that could wipe out my entire hard drive, I managed to do it all by myself.
Suddenly, my computer had amnesia, and didn’t recognize me, my commands or my files. As the blood drained slowly out of my head, my writer friends’ warning echoed in my ears. “It says in the book to make backup copies,” but I was too busy writing to listen. I had purchased a tutorial to learn the intricate workings of the computer, but never opened it. After all, I know how to drive my car, but not how to fix it. Ditto for the washer, the microwave and the VCR. To me, a computer is just another household machine.
Before pulling the plug, I called a friend with a similar setup.
“You know that stupid computer move we talked about, the one that could wipe out everything?” I began.
“You didn’t,” he answered. “Don’t do anything else, don’t turn it off, I’ll be right over.”
I hung up the phone with a sweaty hand. In my panic, I HAD turned the computer off and on, several times. As I sat and waited for help to arrive, I silently berated myself for joining computer-dependent society. Vicious computer viruses, poised to strike at any minute were chillingly able to wipe out more than a few short stories by a small-town writer. They could delete bank balances, credit records (well, maybe not such a bad idea) perhaps my very existence (I’m sorry, Ms. Braman, according to our computer you were never born.”) I remembered the story of the disgruntled employee, who before quitting, installed a secret program in his company’s computer. Six month after his departure, all the financial records evaporated. There was no way to determine who owed the company money, and customers didn’t come forward, despite please in the local newspaper. The company was forced into bankruptcy.
Back in the 60s, when the President’s Physical Fitness Awards had us all huffing and puffing in grammar school gym class, there was a prophetic commercial running on TV. A robot-person carried a television, from which the face and voice of a real person issued commands. However, the robot either rebelled or malfunctioned, because it abandoned the TV-person who was left to shout commands to the air. The tag line at the end of the commercial said that if you didn’t keep your body in shape, someday you might not have one. Since then, I’ve been wary of depending too much on technology.
All this came back to me as I waited for my friend to come over with a magic wand to make things all better. I concluded that wiping out my hard drive was just what I deserved. After all, I was getting too comfortable with this computer stuff.
As it turned out only a “simple” installation of the operating system was required. My programs and my work were still there, hiding in a parallel computer dimension. My computer-literate friend made me promise to make backup copies and never try to delete anything until I had completed the tutorial that was gathering dust on my shelf.
And I did promise to do it, eventually. After all, I still had some stories to print out, some banners to make for the kids, and a couple of games to try. Yessiree, I’m sure glad my computer is working. I can’t imagine what I’d do without it.
© Noreen Braman
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