Saturday, May 14, 2011

Numbers Lock

A relationship with a computer is akin to a relationship with another human being. Lack of complete understanding prevents the full benefit one could derive from interactions. How often in personal relationships does one individual react poorly because he/she has not analysed the other person's motivations? So much time is wasted in petty rows or negative emotional responses when comprehension would prevent all of that!

In similar fashion, if only I knew more about computers, I would not be the victim of my own ignorance in dealing with my laptop.

This morning, my laptop suddenly refused to type the letters I pressed. One side of the keyboard continued to work properly but on the other side, a letter key immediately was translated into a number. I was very distressed by this situation. I thought the machine had begun to malfunction, perhaps on account of its advanced age, rather like a computer version of Alzheimer's disease.

Well, of course, it was nothing more than the Number Locks key which I must have pressed inadvertantly. I did know of the existence of this key on some level but never used it and never explored its ramifications. I had to appeal to some one else when my problem occurred and had to be told how to solve it...

Part of my problem is a reluctance to study new technology. Everything changes and mutates so quickly that it is pointless to delve too deeply into manuals of operation as very soon, the device will be superceded by another.

Remember the days of the zip drive? Superceded now by the flashdrive, with CDs somewhere in between... Storage of information is a fragile business, when storage devices are made obsolete so quickly. It makes one realise that ultimately paper is best if one really has any desire to retrieve the information in the future. After all, when a device becomes obsolete, those who are educated to repair the device quickly move on to the newer technology and within a decade, probably will have neither the knowledge nor the desire to repair the old machines.

I had a gorgeous machine by Panasonic that would record and play both VHS cassettes and CDS. After a couple of years, however, one part of its operation failed. It then refused even to try to operate in other ways. I took it to the local repair shop where the owner vowed to attempt the repair. A year later, I was told that he was unable to buy the parts needed, even from Panasonic...

I have manuscripts of uncompleted novels on devices that cannot be 'read'... Probably worthless stuff, but it would be nice to be able to retrieve the information.

Returning to my initial comparison, however, computers and other technological devices are very much like human beings in their need to be understood and the time required to interact effectively with them. As with a person who throws a temper tantrum, a machine that malfunctions needs to be comprehended and trouble aborted as quickly and efficiently as possible. Rather than becoming distressed and upset, one simply needs to be able to solve the problem quickly and move forward somehow.

As a child, I was deeply upset by adults and persons 'in authority' who shouted and screamed and generally behaved badly and unjustly towards me. When I finally understood WHY they behaved that way and realised it had nothing whatsoever to do with me really, I was able to mitigate the damage to my own psyche somehow. The key to MY mental health was comprehension of the imperfections and flaws in the behaviour of others. I only wish I had the necessary patience and determination to study the technological devices that are so much a part of my daily life now. Alas, I do not possess it and therefore must resign myself to periodical anxiety and distress generated by mechanical malfunctions and my own tactical errors!

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