Outburst of an unhinged technophobe

It is probably appropriate to start by reminding all readers the meaning of the title PPI Blogger  – Partial, Prejudiced and Ignorant.

I find our modern technological society very useful, of course, but also very frustrating. Please excuse the following outburst, not unrelated to the experience of the past week.

  1. The great problem with all computers is that the user cannot answer back. If a human being makes a comment or demand that is incomprehensible or indeed rude, one can say, “Excuse me, you’ve lost me there”, or, less politely, “What do you mean by that?” But faced with computer gibberish or non-cooperation, there is no appropriate button to press saying “Explain yourself, you stupid machine,” or “I want to speak to the manager.” Don’t get me started on Help buttons. I think I’ve once in my life found one of them helpful.
  2. A particular occasion when an “EY,YSM” button would be useful is when computers lie. Considering that they are machines, computers lie surprisingly often and unimaginatively. In the past, the most common untruth was “this programme has committed an illegal action”, but now the most frequent are “you are not connected to the internet” and “this programme is locked by another user.” Explain Yourself, You Stupid Machine; there is no other user in the house.
  3. Although we pay for hardware and we pay for software, and the service we use doesn’t change from day to day – nor do we wish it to – computer programmes show a strange insistence on updating, upgrading and configuring themselves. Why this is necessary, and usually compulsory, we are never told. Do you want to do this now or later? (No.) Configuring Windows – do not turn off your computer. (“But I want to go to bed, and you’re supposed to be my property, not my boss.”) Why does Windows continually need to upgrade? Self-improvement is a virtue, but no improvement ever actually results. The problems always reported with a so-called upgrade (faugh!) have certainly ruined the word for any positive meaning for the foreseeable future.
  4. You have probably guessed by now that this little rant was inspired by a week when Windows crashed without warning or cause. There were several days effectively without Office, and thus almost without sensible work; but eventually order was restored after someone, not me, spent many hours laboriously backing-up, saving, rebooting, rebooting again, reloading and wondering where the machine had put the supposedly reloaded stuff. There is no apology, no explanation, no compensation for wasted time or lost work, and no reason to suppose this will not happen again. Yet Microsoft is supposed to be a wealthy and reputable organisation. Why won’t it take responsibility for its shoddy workmanship? Why don’t we make it?
  5. One reason why we don’t/can’t, is the cunning way large companies have with their Contact page. It is often quite difficult to find a simple email address to which you can send your complaint in your own time. What you find is an inbuilt email system of which you won’t have a record afterwards, or a Frequently Asked Questions page. “Why don’t you explain yourself, you stupid machine?” is not one of the FAQ. In my more reasonable moments, I accept that Bill Gates doesn’t want the whole world to know his private email address, but it is the skill of Windows to enrage me so that I am far from reasonable.
  6. On a slightly different tack, what is it with the modern internet and tailored ads? When I go on a website, I’m usually asked to consent to the use of cookies. I may not understand what cookies are, except that they’re inedible, but I realise they’re necessary. But increasingly I’m told “we use cookies to personalise and tailor ads. Do you agree?” and if I don’t agree, I can’t use the site. And so, since using the internet is an essential part of life, those who object to having their viewing habits trawled through in order that ads may be tailored to their weaknesses are disempowered from what they need. Yet this isn’t necessary – the terrifyingly addictive site tvtropes.com, on which the Blogger has wasted many many hours, manages to let me click “I Do Not Accept” and still surf for many more.
  7. Finally, for the time being… everyone knows we should use less energy for the sake of the planet. We know that travelling by plane uses energy, as does eating meat, driving a car and buying single-use plastic. But how often do we count the carbon footprint of our clicks on Wikipedia or Google maps? Do any sites assist us in doing this? (I’m really as guilty as anyone here, or if I’m not, it’s not for want of will.)

Perhaps I should try one or both of the methods employed in “The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”: “Computer,” said Zaphod… “if you don’t open that exit hatch this moment I shall zap straight off to your major data banks and reprogram you with a very large axe, got that?”

Ford carried on counting quietly. This is about the most aggressive thing you can do to a computer, the equivalent of going up to a human being and saying, ‘Blood…blood…blood…blood.'”

We aren’t told which of these methods worked, but the exit hatch opened.

Love from the PPI Blogger

PS Someone, who shall be nameless, is doubtless going to tell me that I would have none of these problems with an Apple Mac.

  • Judith Anne Renton

    9th August 2019 at 5:34 pm Reply

    Apple Mac? Huh…avoid

  • Clint Redwood

    9th August 2019 at 7:11 pm Reply

    Actually, I wasn’t going to tell you that, although Judith, a mac is every bit as good as a tram…

    However, what I was going to suggest, re point 3, is an example of when an organisation objects to “being upgraded” – Cybermen? – and decides not to implement any such upgrades for several years.

    A year or two ago, the NHS was brought to a standstill by “Wannacry” and had someone not accidentally discovered the deactivate code for it, things would have been much worse.

    This is why Microsoft, Apple et al. keep updating their software. People keep finding vulnerabilities and so they have to be closed. Imagine your locksmith figured out someone had a master key and did nothing to warn or protect you. You’d be livid.

    Macs are better though, if only because they are lighter!

    • Penelope Wallace

      10th August 2019 at 6:49 pm Reply

      A very measured reply, Clint!

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