“Just trust me on this,” he said. That’s when I knew he was talking rubbish.
My computer had been acting up for about twelve weeks, switching itself off when my back was turned, that sort of thing, and I had been doing my best to pretend it was just a hiccup. I thought it might be the power cable, or something to do with the power, but deep down I knew what it might be. The mother-board. Why have they given the operational part of a computer a gender? What’s that about? Anyway: mumsy or not, it was on the blink, and heigh-ho, time for the fourth computer of my career.
Getting a new computer raises the simple question of how you are going to get the stuff – no other word for it – off the old computer. I am a reasonably salty old hand at this, and back almost everything up. But you can’t back up those wizzy free programs you find occasionally on the net, which enable you to make very surprising translations from one sort of file to another. You may be getting a new machine (which is more powerful and less expensive than the previous one, as is the way), but you are still going to have to load up those programs. And that means, in my case, that I will have a run-in with the AOL help-line. Many of the advisers they employ are charming, but they must, let’s face it, spend their time talking to people who don’t know a mouse from a memory-stick, and they can therefore get tetchy. And if I can’t understand them, and have taught and worked online for fifteen years, what hope is there for the others?
AOL sent me, when I moved, a new disc, with an instruction to instal it. Since I was still using the faulty machine (which worked perfectly when it wasn’t not working, if you see what I mean), I couldn’t see the point of this. So I rang the helpline. “No, no, no need to instal it,” they said. So I didn’t. But today, faced with a new machine, it seemed to me that I should use the thing. I knew that today would involve a run-in with AOL: I told my neighbour, in fact, as we exchanged chat over shovels of snow (his).
The first helpliner was very good. He got me c onnected to the internet, courtesy of my new disc. Just as I put the phone down on him (5p a minute), I realised I hadn’t asked the question I really wanted to ask: how do you move your emails, the old ones, yes all right the ones you are almost certainly never going to look at again, from the old machine to the new? I had got ahead of the game on this one. When the old machine started getting very rickety, I saved what I thought was the PFC (Personal Filing Cabinet) to a spare external drive, ready for transfer. I had to ring back. The second helpliner said that what I needed to do was easy. All I had to do was to find the file ‘Organize’ on the new machine, and paste in the stuff I’d saved.
But there was no file called ‘Organize’ (or ‘Organise’, in case you’re wondering). After a heated half-an-hour, in which the gist was that I must be mad, he rang off, or was possibly disconnected after excessive time with a customer. I sat back. I rang again. The third helpliner was well-schooled in charm. Could he call me Bill? Yes indeed. But he worked out that the disc I had been sent contained a vastly inferior version of AOL – a sort of AOL lite – which was not able to produce the conditions for transferring all those emails. “Only one chance,” he said. “Uninstal the AOL,” he said, “and then connect through Internet Explorer, and download the proper AOL.'” So, I said, I need to connect through the DialBB to the internet (don’t ask). “NO! NO! NO!” he said (‘said’), and then accused me of switching on the machine. He was right. “I SAID NOT FOR 15 MINUTES!” he yelled. “JUST TRUST ME ON THIS!”
I had a cup of tea. I hope he did. He was asking me to connect to the internet without an internet connection, to download a new AOL system, so that I might – might – be able to rescue those emails. It made no sense.
I went back, switched on, connect via DialBB, went online without so much as a by-your-leave, and downloaded the AOL programs. And then I had a look in the depths of the C: drive (‘Don’t come in here unless you know what you’re doing!”) for anything resembling what I took to be my colossal cache of old messages. Deep breath. I pasted them in.
I wonder if I should start a call centre. I’ll call it ‘Just Trust Me’. It is a joy to beat an expert, and made the next nine hours of putting discs in and watching as they slowly loaded almost palatable.