There was a time, not too long ago, when I considered myself a member of the Computer Literate. You know. That (reasonably) tech-savvy, (somewhat) knowledgeable and (generally) proficient group of individuals who are skilled enough to manipulate, maintain and fix their machines in most day-to-day circumstances, with a minimum number of hassles or headaches. Although my most impressive tricks were probably installing hardware and basic HTML coding (a quick note to the uninitiated--those arenít very impressive tricks), I thought that my general level of competency somehow made me immune to the hardships suffered by my less-knowledgeable peers. I could install and delete programs properly. I could alter my system settings and BIOS. I didnít have to pay some stuck-up computer tech $50 to install a CD burner into my system.
In all honesty, however, I suppose I was that stuck-up computer tech. I figured I knew enough about my machine not only to keep it up and running, but also to correct any mistakes I might (rarely) make. I had little sympathy for people with driver problems; people whose machines froze; people who resorted to tech support. Looking down, from my perch atop the lofty tower of the Computer Literate, I chuckled at the expense of the masses.
But no more:
Now, Iím one of them.
...Or, more truthfully, perhaps Iíve always been one of them. Perhaps Iíve just realized it now, after a string of infuriating pc-related issues have brought me to my knees. Over the past year, Iíve gone from self-assured virtual playboy to technology-fearing caveman. Iíve thrown in the proverbial towel (and often came close to throwing the non-proverbial monitor), bent over, and allowed the afore-mentioned computer techs to swoop in. Screw being Computer Literate. Itís too much work.
Flattering yourself into believing youíre pc-efficient is easy enough when the majority of your Ďproblemsí can be resolved by upgrading your drivers, reinstalling a program or simply rebooting your machine. No matter how innocent your computing behavior, no matter how diligently you defrag your C drive and clear out your cache, you will always run into programs that inexplicably cease to function and hardware that occasionally goes on the fritz. Thatís the price we pay for the Ďconvenienceí of technology (at least as long as Bill Gates controls an overwhelming portion of the market share).
The problems Iíve recently encountered with my machines run much deeper than simple software hiccups. Iím talking about the nonsensical, way-outta-left field variety of computer problems that totally cripple your machine, leaving you perplexed and utterly exasperated, and often with no idea of how to solve them. For someone who fancies themselves technology-competent (like myself), itís a pretty humbling (and rage-inducing) experience.
My first such encounter with an Ďunsolvableí computer problem occurred about a year and a half ago, when my system started to crash unexpectedly. Play a 3D shooter- crash. Write an essay- crash. Download some wicked goat sex movies- crash. After countless hours of troubleshooting, trial-and-error experiments and lots of advice from friends, I thought I had come up with a reasonable explanation (never mind solution) for my problem: The machine was overheating due to a faulty BIOS reading. Or maybe it was my $500 video card (yes, $500Ö I kid you not). Or maybe, according to the pc repairman I finally brought my machine to, it was an error with Windows itself. To make a long story short, after months of work with nothing to show for it, I ended up conceding defeat and cannibalizing the box for parts.
That one negative experience would have been sufficient. However, in the time since, Iíve been plagued by a number of ridiculously impossible problems on three or four other machines. I never truly realized what a huge discrepancy there is when it comes to the level of expertise required to resolve major issues with a PC- youíre either a pro, or youíre hopeless. It makes me laugh to think that my chances of fixing a computer are quite comparable to those of my grandmother, and Iím not even sure she knows how to access the Internet.
They say prides goes before the fall. Well, its come to the point now where I donít even bother to try and find solutions to my technology headaches. If my limited knowledge base canít fix a conflict, I work around it or (gasp) call in the tech support.
Interestingly enough, my newfound dependence on pc repairmen brings up another dilemma entirely: Should I be exasperated or amused when they canít figure out whatís wrong with my machines either?
John is currently attending York University in Toronto, with a major in Procrastination.