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Death to Technology

June 7th, 2005

In the Alafair Tucker mystery series, I write about a woman who is trying to raise children to survive in a new century, one that she knows she’ll never understand as well as her children do. Alafair grew up with wells, buggies, and kerosine lamps. Her kids will have cars, airplanes, indoor plumbing, and electricity. The world, it do keep changing.

I got AOL reinstalled on my desktop last week. No problem. Feeling very computer-savvy, I went out and bought myself a laptop. The idea is that I can take it with me to the library and compose right on the computer, thus saving myself the step of hand-writing first, then transfering the new work onto the computer at home. Having two computers also will save my husband and me having to schedule computer time between us. In theory, all quite brilliant.

Unfortunately, the real world imposes itself upon our Polyanna-ish dreams.

I found a nice Acer Aspire laptop for a reasonable price. It has a lot of memory on it, though I don’t really need anything too powerful. I’m not interested in games, movies, or music downloads. I want to be able to write my books, store them and download them into backup files. I’d like to store some pictures, and to be able to manage this website. Nothing very sophisticated.

One would think that loading programs onto the new computer would be easy. You just stick in the CD and off it goes. I was able to upload Microsoft Office with no problem (I think. I haven’t tried to use it yet). Then I started loading AOL 9.0 onto the new laptop. When I put 9.0 on the desktop, it started whirring, and Bob’s your uncle. On this laptop, I got the first screen (click here if you are a new/current user), did as I was told. Up came the second screen (click here if you are adding this computer to your existing account). Click, and nothing. I’m stuck.

Why oh why oh why? This is the same disk I used on the desktop. It should still be good. I fool around a little — try this and that, back out and start again. But I keep getting stuck on screen 2. I call AOL Tech support, and Tech Guy has me clicking here and clacking there. My fingers are dancing all over the keyboard and skating that mouse around like Scott Hamilton. Nothing. He still can’t get me past screen 2. I can hear him sweating over the phone. Finally he gives up and suggests I call Acer Tech support.

Instead, I pack up the laptop and drive back out to where I got it. My husband and I wait for about half an hour behind some poor guy who is visiting from New Jersey as he tries to get the one and only Tech to fix his very busted computer while he stands there. Finally, I get to the window and explain the problem. Tech Guy gives me a fresh AOL disk to try, I load it in, and, lo, it gets stuck on screen 2. I’ve been clicking where it says “Click”. I’ve clicked with the mouse, and I’ve clicked on the little built-in finger mouse pad. T.G. rubs his chin for a minute, pondering. Then he reaches out and hits “Enter” on the keyboard. Up comes screen 3, and off we go.

My sister Martha and I recently discussed the horrible problem of technology. For those of us who attained majority before the advent of the computer age, it just ain’t fair. We aren’t stupid. But we grew up in a world that required a whole other set of skills. It’s like all the younger people coming up are learning to speak Chinese as their native language. We oldies can learn to speak Chinese, too, if we have to, but we’ll never be as fluent. We’ll always have an accent. But those young whippersnappers don’t know how to do research without the internet. By the way, I enrolled in a computer tutorial. My Chinese needs work.

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