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computer demonMy Life With Machines: A Non-mechanical Square Peg in a Round Hole Called The World
by Marjorie Dorfman

Are you convinced that machines are part of a subversive plot to take over your life? Do you feel helpless against their might? Then read on and unite with us other misfits!

You hear it absolutely everywhere. This is the mechanical age. Machines are a part of everyone’s life in one form or another. As far as I am concerned, I have never been comfortable with machines and things are only a little bit better now that I own and operate a computer. My problems started a long time ago. I can remember being in college and needing to view some micro-film for a research project I was working on. I found the library and the micro film department, (applause, please) but I was left to my own devises after the clerk handed me the film with words that the machine was "over there somewhere."

I managed to get the film inside the machine but the problem was that I had inserted it upside down. I unclipped it and reclipped it in what I thought was the proper fashion, but that’s only if you consider sideways proper. I sat with my neck cricked to one side while I took notes for about ten minutes. Some kindly former boyscout passed my table and turned something on the side of the machine and walked away. Victory at last, but alas, it was short-lived.

When I finished viewing the micro-film I had to return it to the desk. Piece of cake, you say. Aha! You’re wrong. I spent about two minutes looking for a release button and then I found it. I pressed it. What else? Well, I don’t know what else, but I can tell you that the micro-film went sailing past my right ear and rolled underneath three of the nearby tables in the reading room before crashing into a corner. I won’t discuss what was on the floor, but I will tell you that it It took me forty minutes to rewind the tape, bring it to the desk, find my mask and get the hell out of there.

Years passed without further incident and then it happened again as life thrust some of its changes upon me. The answering machine. When I discovered that I could both attach that correctly to my phone and actually make it work, I felt like that dog listening into the RCA megaphone and hearing his master’s voice. It left me in awe but only long enough to consider a VCR which was the next hurdle in my life.

When I went to buy my VCR I had heard many stories about how difficult some of them were to program. I knew an engineer who had one and confessed to me that he could only tape something if he wasn't at home. I decided to stay ahead of the hi-tech game. I went to my neighborhood appliance outlet and requested a VCR that an imbecile could operate. A moment or two of chuckles and embarassment made me, with my one button operation, the only kid on my block able to program their own VCR! I was considering starting a club for people who owned them and couldn't use them, but soon abandoned the idea. After all, I knew how to make mine work!

I moved from the VCR with an awareness of one major problem. The remote. In my house the name does not come from the object itself. No, it relates instead to the chances of finding it. And to make matters worse, there's more than one. I have four televisions all equipped with their own remotes and two VCRs with one remote for each of them. All the televisions are one brand and the VCRs are another and so the remtes look the same. It's all I can do to keep together the ones that belong together. Apart from that, programing is something I can usually do. However, whenever Daylight Saving Time rolls around, it's very confusing at my house. All my clocks tell of a different time. I am always waiting for some signal to come from outer space and correct it. (That's what the manual says.) Eventually, it all gets straightened out, but for a few days I'm just like that old song, "I Didn't Know What Time It Was."laptop service

Living with the answering machine and the VCR made me want to conquer the Everest of the technologically challenged: the computer. I must take a moment here to speak of my first one, a lap top whose brand shall remain nameless (but not to protect the innocent.) I bought it about twelve years ago from a well-meaning friend who felt such a purchase would enhance my writing life and career. It had a little memory, black letters on a gray screen and no personality whatsoever. In those days I smoked and cigarette ash and creativity kind of went together. Sometimes strange things slipped inside, but whatever missed the space between the keys my cats made up for by walking all over the machine at will. (I had a cover, but they would knock it off.)

I often lost material because there was not enough memory to print and create simultaneously. The machine would never warn me in time and I would watch helplessly as my hard-earned words were sucked into the vacuum of oblivion time after time. I began to take things personally and one day I got so disgusted that in a fit of creative peak I threw it down the incinerator of my apartment building. To this day if I close my eyes, I can still hear the clackety-clack of the plastic as it hit the walls on the way down to the furnace eleven floors below.

Things have changed. I have matured. Besides, the computer I now own is too big to throw down the incinerator!

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