Either I am not as smart as I used to be or computers are more complex than they used to be. Or Maybe I just never was as smart as I thought I was, though Smartness is hard to qualify; some times I’m better at problem-solving than other times.
Last year I made the mistake of frying my MacBook Air with a couple of drops of water. I hadn’t spilled a liquid near a computer in more than twenty years, not since I spilled milk on a Register-Guard Mac in the photography department. I expected Carl Davaz, the head IT guy to tear into me, but he merely said, “there’s no sense crying over spilled milk.” That moment still gives me the shivers.
I’ve had a long history of computer dependence as well as respect.
I’ve been a faithful goldstar Mac consumer since the 1980s, except for my brief fling with a Commodore Amiga. My friend Peter Büttner had given me Apple stock to buy a computer. He had been using an Apple Macintosh and wanted to support my writing career. The University of Oregon bookstore carried Apple, and probably PC, but the Amiga display stole my heart. It had a larger screen, was better for games, and was reasonably priced. I wasn’t the only one:
“The Amiga was so far ahead of its time that almost nobody—including Commodore’s marketing department—could fully articulate what it was all about. Today, it’s obvious the Amiga was the first multimedia computer, but in those days it was derided as a game machine because few people grasped the importance of advanced graphics, sound, and video. Nine years later, vendors are still struggling to make systems that work like 1985 Amigas.” — Byte Magazine, August 1994
Cool graphics and having the ability to have multiple applications running was all well and good, but memory measured in the letter K rather than Mb’s can create serious problems. There’s nothing worse than having a computer freeze, especially when you have just finished a paper that hadn’t been saved; it kidnaps your document; doesn’t even ask for a ransom; it just kills it. I’ll never forget telling one of my UO professors, Maryln Farwell, that my computer ate the paper that was due that day.
I did learn to be better at saving files, but overall it seemed as the learning curve for the Amiga and the Macs I bought throughout the years wasn’t that high. At least in my memory, It seemed as though there was a time when I could pull out a computer out of the box, set up the modem, and off I’d go. I don’t remember so many hassles; there definitely weren’t the layers and layers of passwords and codes.
Unless the computer was a PC. I’ve worked with them and I have never felt comfortable with the operating system; it wasn’t as user friendly or predictable.
Last year, after frying my MacBook Air with a few drops of water, I convinced myself that since PC’s were so much cheaper, my three decades of experience could carry me over the threshold of doubt; I could step off the yellow brick road of Macs, and be okay; I wouldn’t end up in the forest of trees that would throw apples at me. I reassured myself that my needs were simple; all I wanted to do was write text, store some pictures, watch a lot of baseball, and perhaps listen to Pandora. By now, Personal Computers ought to be as easy as using a Mac.
I shopped carefully. Or I thought. I checked out prices. I read up on them. I asked for friends’ opinion. Lenovo got a thumbs up. I wanted versatility; a laptop that can be used as a tablet, though I’ve never used that feature.
It wasn’t until I brought the Lenovo home that I realized that the keyboard was not traditional. I should have returned it immediately because the right shift key was not only the same size and shape as the arrows, but it was also tucked in with the arrows. I’d have to stop and look when shifting or my cursor would play hide-and-go-seek with me. I hated the Lenovo.
But I’m stubborn.
I told myself that I could figure it out.
I could adapt.
But it wasn’t just the keyboard. In my few experiences of PC’s, they all have a Bermuda Triangle when it comes to documents. Pictures and files vanish. Sometimes I would be able to find things, but mostly accidental. How could I write anything if I am afraid of losing it?
I unretired my MacBook Pro that had been designated as backup storage. It was a fine machine, but the track pad had stopped working and I didn’t like having to drag a mouse around. But compared to the Lenovo nightmares, I didn’t mind as much.
By going back to the old MacBook Pro, a higher end machine than the MacBook Air, I realized how much I had to adapt just within Apple computers. The programs were different. I had to settle for the Mail program rather than Entourage, which really bugged me at first, but I adjusted.
Since my adaptation to the dark side of the computer world with my PC Lenovo wasn’t working, the desire of the MacBook Air grew again. I needed an untethered laptop. I wanted familiarity and easy.
The purchase of the MacBook Air couldn’t have been any easier. I walked in, bought it, as well as Office, and walked out, thinking that all of my computer problems would be over.
Once I got the laptop out of the box. The easy part ended. Okay, maybe not quite. I did find the power button right away. There have been Macs when it took some hunting to find the camouflaged power switch. My current desk top, which ought to go into a museum, and is only used because I never moved all of my files over, has the power button hidden in the back. I think that was the year they decided to not include user manuals anymore.
Some of the easy in using computers, went away when the Wide World Web got complicated with viruses and hacking and now everything requires a password.
On my way to opening up WordPress so I could do my first blog on my new laptop, I thought it would cool to have Facebook up. I hadn’t checked in today, so I thought that would be a basic thing to have. I couldn’t remember my password.
While searching for my password, the computer started talking in a language I didn’t recognize. I was told that a two factor authentication was required. What? I was told that I just had to tell them the code from the generator. What generator? Was this an omen suggesting that I ought to not contaminate my new computer with Facebook? (That was a nice thought while it lasted, but I did finally figure out how to get Facebook…)
So, when I started using this new MacBook Air, easy wasn’t around. I wanted to move documents from the old PowerBook, like a year’s worth of journals, to the MacBook Air. I remembered being able to use Bluetooth to send files. I managed to get the MacBook Air to talk to a set of wireless headphones that came with the laptop, though I couldn’t figure out how to get the ear buds to stay in my ear, but that’s a different story.
I finally took this MacBook Air to the Mac store for help, but the technician told me that Bluetooth was not supposed to be used to transfer files, even though that’s what this old dog has been using ever since being introduced to bluetooth. The Mac “expert” told me that my old PowerBook couldn’t talk to my MacBook Air because of it’s older operating system. He told me it couldn’t talk to my Samsung Phone and Tablet and Lenovo because of the different operating systems.
How could something that had been so easy become so hard?
The thing that I love about computers is that there’s always more than one way to do something. The hell with blue tooth. I had bought an external drive back a year ago with the Air that I killed and never used it. Perhaps opportunity. Struggled with registering it, but it just was one of those days and that didn’t bother me. Finally managed to transfer my file of stories onto the drive and then onto the new computer.
Unfortunately, Easy continued to sidestep my pursuit of convenience. Word, a program I’d used forever, looked foreign. Finding the scroll bar took some doing. I never did manage to find the short cut in moving to the end of a two hundred page document and have had to rely on the scroll bar.
I’ve had this MacBook Air for about a month now and have adjusted and adapted, but there’s still a lot for me to learn.