If something can go wrong it will, especially for some of us and you know who you are…
Things didn’t work long before computers came into our homes. The stapler runs out of staples with only one more bundle of papers to go and the new strip of staples will jam as soon as you press down the heel of your hand.
We had a family heirloom hand sewing machine Jones, as supplied to Her Majesty Queen Alexandra. Whether the wife of Edward VII used her sewing machine I have no idea; but ours was old and loyal, blessed with a few simple operations. I turned the handle and the needle sped up and down stitching clothes for my doll; but if the spool ran out or the threads jammed I was instantly infuriated with the machine and my father was the only one who could sort it. When we started sewing lessons at senior school we were confronted with treadles and electric machines. I never mastered the treadle action, let alone the sewing part of the procedure. I would pretend to be busy until an electric machine was available. I have sewn many things since, if my electric machine is running smoothly I can make anything (as long as it doesn’t involve button holes or fancy stitches), but if the fabric puckers or binds itself to the machine I am completely stumped.
If asked to be the first to arrive and open up a meeting place I know for sure the key will not fit, or the door will remain shut tight. Pull, push, jiggle a half turn, but entry will only be gained when other people start to turn up and try for themselves, the door swinging open readily. Things are no better if there is a code to unlock the door. Did you remember the numbers, in the correct order, turn the knob the right way, or rather to the left not the right… the only way to conquer that door is to sneak up on it when it is not looking.
Perhaps I am not the only one for whom thing go wrong. A long queue forms at the one open till with a human; the other assistants are busy trying to direct reluctant shoppers to the scan your own machines or helping them when that robotic voice says Item not recognised, unbagged item…. Computers in various forms are unavoidable.
For a long time I had no reason to be involved with computers, but writing and social media sucked me in to this love hate relationship. Unlike staplers and sewing machines computers are sentient beings; they know when you need to send an urgent e-mail, post your blog or print an important document.
The digital world of scanners and printers was preceded in the work place by photocopiers and before that machines such as The Gestetner. I dreaded being left alone with this mystery of rolling drums, scent of chemicals and ink which printed too faintly or leaked in the wrong places. But it was still mechanical and not totally beyond comprehension.
Computers lull you into a false sense of security, The World at your finger tips, documents easily altered, unlike the bad old days of typewriters. Then things start to go wrong. You log into Facebook, but instead of pictures of your friends and cute kittens there are only blank squares waiting to be filled in while the tiny blue circle goes round and round…. You sign into your e-mail account and see you have sixty messages, but it won’t let you into your In Box. The lay person has no idea if the problem lies with their mouse, their computer, a real rodent gnawing at the Virgin cable, or if the World Wide Web has been switched off by – let’s not blame any particular country.
It’s all magic to us. My response to these first world problems is irrational rage if I’m on my own or to yell for Cyberspouse. He does not believe that the computer bears personal malevolence towards me and remains calm in a crisis, usually solving the problem by clicking on a button I didn’t know existed.
What do you do when things go wrong, or do things always work for you?