Why is it –

Why is it that when you switch on a computer, and it fails to boot up, or its screen is blank, or it freezes, or it won’t recognise your password, or it tells you that it has had a total effing nervous breakdown and you should tell someone about it and quickly, or it brings up a screen in a strange new font that says ‘If this is the first time you have seen this screen, it’s just to tell you that your computer is ill/sick/under the weather/not sure where to go for its holidays, and you need to shut it down or, worse, contact the System Administrator’, that, having failed utterly to grasp the enormity and perversity and absurdity of what it has been up to, and having trudged or driven or cadged a lift to the nearest boffin, he or she will, without and beyond a shadow of a doubt, just switch the machine on, and it will (not without a certain curl of the keyboard lip, you fancy) shudder to life, and sit there on your table/desk/ whatever, and behave as if NOTHING has happened – no freezing, no cranking, no unbooting, no blanking, no major executable errrors, no gremlin, no packdrill – and smugly returm itself to the state of nature in which you vaguely remember it being before you resorted to complaining about it in the first place.

Anyone would think this has just happened to me. It has indeed. It has occupied a fair amount of my day, and it has been like taking a fractious child to a dentist, only to find that the child is happy, toothsome, and jolly a couple of hours later, while the dentist, previously your friend, looks at you as if considering whether or not you have not only a shortage of metal in your teeth, but a rare form of gingevitis which will require hospital treatment at the very least, if not incarceration in a place set aside for the terminally stupid, the imbecilic, and those unable to operate a simple computer mouse (which was also misbehaving, by the way).

Most of us are now unable to achieve and sustain employment without the aid of a computer, and its smarmy artificial intelligence, its propensity (which has to be switched off) for completing sentences or adding accents or putting ‘truly’ after ‘yours’. The machines have come a long way since the rackety printer and green-screens of the Amstrad PCW9512s on which many of us cut our teeth, but they now know a little too much for our own good. They have .dlls (sometimes orphaned, how tragic, I don’t think) and other horrors lurking like angry tadpoles within the frog-pools of their interiors. They can do things that no sane mortal would ever wish to do. But it is too late. The next generation is already on its way, and it will be equally and probably more openly nauseating.


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