Friday, July 21, 2006

The Com-pooter

Tools of the Trade, Part IV (Final)

By C. L. Beck

Despite our nostalgia for old-fashioned writer’s tools like quill pens and typewriters, no one can seriously argue that any previous inventions were ever as handy as the computer. (Or as my friend in Nevada calls it, “the com-pooter”.)

With a com-pooter a writer can whip out a story in no time, use grammar check and spell check to improve the manuscript, and then delete any errors in the blink of an eye. It can be saved as a file on the hard drive, on a CD, on a zip drive, or on a flash drive that can be attached to a key ring. Come flood, earthquake, or mud slide, multiple backups ensure all is not lost.

Armed with that knowledge and counting on the computer's speed, I sat down to work on this week's blog at ten o'clock last night, figuring I could whip it out in no time. I wrote the first two paragraphs in thirty seconds. There was no pen to refill, no carbon copy mistakes to correct, no dinging to indicate I needed to return my typewriter carriage back to start. Just the quiet of my thoughts (which included a nagging feeling that I should do a backup) . . . and the ‘whirring’ of the com-pooter fan in the night . . . and this error message that came out of nowhere.

Where had the message come from? Were there little men in my machine who knew when I made an error? What error had I made? And why? Thinking I must have hit a wrong key, and having an overwhelming spiritual reminder that Jesus saves and I should too, I moved my mouse to highlight and delete the message, only to get another.

Knowing my word processing program had done an automatic backup, I followed the instructions and restarted the com-pooter. In the two hours it took the infernal machine to re-boot, I could have written the blog by hand. When I finally got back to my word processing program, it had backed up my text in Chinese and I was ready to shoot the thing. It must have sensed my hostility, because it sent another message.

There's a stack? A stack of what? I was beginning to think it could only be a stack of idiot programmers.

Fidgeting at the thought of a fallen stack, I accidentally bumped my mouse. My com-pooter blinked, hiccupped, and all my Chinese writing disappeared. I would have throttled the stupid mouse, except I was afraid if I moved it, it would eat my cheese. Using stealth, I started typing all over again. Just as I began wrapping up my thoughts, I got another error message.

Replace user?

Every writer has his/her own ethical guideline to follow. LDS writers have an even stricter code. Believe me when I tell you it's for that reason alone I didn't call the com-pooter a bleeping so and so when it suggested replacing me.

By now the sun was rising, peeking over the ridge. I picked up my com-pooter, lugged it outside and threw it into the henhouse, where it made a fine nesting box for Henny Penny.

My blog is still unwritten; I guess I'll have to do it by hand. First, though, I need to find the old rooster. I'm sure he won't mind donating a tail feather so I can make a quill pen.

****(Please Note: I haven't a clue who created the 'error message' images that I've used above. Therefore, I'm unable to give credit. If the images were created by anyone who reads this blog, please contact me and I will be happy to list your name. Assuming, of course, I can drag the com-pooter back out of the henhouse and get the stupid machine to re-boot.)


Triple Nickel said...

Thanks for all of us who have tried to use these modern day "time savers" only to be frustrated into a seething lump of irrational thought!
I say this as I've tried logging in to post this comment several times only to be told, "User account not found!!!"

C. L. Beck said...

Triple Nickel,
Remember . . . just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean people aren't really out to get you!

(At least that's what my therapist tells me. :)

I believe it's true of computers, as well.

Thanks for stopping by to read.