Why I Love/Hate My Computer

I’m Lea Wait, and during the past week my computer has given me nightmares.

Now, I’m usually a fairly calm person. Go ahead – ask my husband. Ask my children. Well – no – don’t ask my children about when they were in high school. And don’t ask my husband about when I’m under a deadline. But – other than that – I am usually very restrained. Accepting. I take deep breaths. I would have been great in WWII Britain.

And after years of writing (corporate, theoretically nonfiction,) before I’d written one word of fiction or entered the world of publishing, I’d honed the ability to smile through dozens of political rewrites, knew the joy of collating at 3 a.m., understood the rationale for squirreling away pounds of carbon and gallons of Wite-out so I would never, ever, run out. and was known as one of the few who could convince a weary secretary to retype a page one more time because a comma needed to be added.

When electric typewriters became common, I loved my Selectric. When they turned into electric typewriters with memory, I was in heaven. And my office had one of the first computers that could process words and make sense of them.

No doubt: I love my computer. I spent eight to twelve hours a day with my keyboard and mouse and screen, writing, researching, sending and receiving e-mails, blogging, Facebooking … in short, in the life of an author … living.

(I do emerge for meals and sleep and CNN .. although now that CNN is on-line …..)

Until last week, when my world came crashing down.

My computer was, I will admit, getting a little on in years. It groaned a little. It hesitated. It stopped and started. (Much as I do some mornings, I will admit.) It would no longer play videos. It wouldn’t accept updates. I started to worry. Yes, I backed up my manuscripts “in the cloud.” But clouds have looked pretty dark recently. And I have a book deadline September 1. So one morning I woke up and decided it was time. Even computers come to an end.

I ruthlessly pulled out cables and drove my old tower to Best Buy. Where, I discovered, few people use desk top computers anymore. It’s all laptops. Well, my study is set up for a desktop, and I wasn’t ready to give that up, so a very patient and polite young Geek (they are actually called that at Best Buy) explained that I could, indeed, buy another tower. But then he introduced me to All-in-Ones … and I fell hard. If any of you are as far behind the times as I was … an “all-in-one” is basically a Spanx for your computer hardware. It squishes everything except your mouse and keyboard into  a flatscreen – a glorious flatscreen, which includes a camera that won’t fall off the top of the screen, speakers that won’t take up desk space – and no pedestal at all. I fell hard. It was gorgeous. And the Geek promised to personally transfer all my files — emails, mailing list, and, of course, all my manuscripts — into this wonderful new computer. (For a not-so-small fee, of course.) And he’d update my Windows. And my Mail. Everything as Up-to-Date as Kansas City before any tornadoes.

I was wooed and won. I handed him my credit card and my tower and went home to clean my desk to prepare for the coming of the new computer.

Two days later it was in my study. Six hours after that I was beginning to figure out how to find mail on it. Maybe.Then I tried to find my mailing list – an essential piece of my business. But that file was (my stomach disappeared to somewhere south of the cellar) empty. I dialed the 800 number the Geek had given me. Another nice Geek told me to attach the backup files I was given to the computer. All would be good.

An hour later?  It wasn’t.

I called the local store. I took the pretty new computer back. I was assured by Geek One that he would resolve the problem. Just a matter of consolidating files. Not a problem for him! I had to go to Portland for a couple of hours?  Stop on my way home.

I did. The computer was “almost ready.”  Not to worry. He’d call.

He didn’t. Until the next afternoon. Seems my software for the mailing list didn’t work with the fancy new Word system. But never fear! He was trying to get through to the software company. He’d make it work!

The next afternoon  he called again. He had the fix … not to worry! (At t this point I hadn’t had a computer for … but who was counting days? I was counting hours! Cut off from the world! No email! No Facebook!  No new pages written!)

And, by the way, he asked … what was my password for my mailing list?

“No password,” I said. “I never gave it a password. I’m the only one who uses it.” “It needs a password to open it,” he said. “I can’t fix it without a password.”  “No password,” I said.” “I’ll see,” he answered. Don’t worry.” He hung up. I worried.

Two days later, I got another call.  A recording. My computer was ready!

I wasn’t sure I believed it. All night I wondered what “ready” meant. “Ready” to throw out? “Ready” without my ten years of mailing list?

When I arrived at the store, Geek One explained. He showed me how it all worked. He told me I might have some problems. He also assured me that the next time I bought a new computer I’d have the same issues with the mailing list again. He smiled. I smiled.  I took the computer home.

I can now report that the Mailing List software works beautifully. I can much relieved about that.

But this afternoon a fellow writer sent me pictures and a guest blog for today’s Maine Crime Writer.  You don’t see it here, because I can’t figure out how to move the pictures she sent me into files so I can upload them into this blog. I was also asked, today, to send an edited chapter of my latest book to a magazine so they could excerpt it.

I ended up retyping the whole chapter.

I haven’t quite mastered Windows 8 yet.

But, never fear. I’ve ordered a copy of Windows 8 for Dummies. It will arrive tomorrow.

My beautiful new computer is sitting on my desk. Now I just have to learn how her brain works. Because, so far, she and I aren’t on the same wavelength.

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12 Responses to Why I Love/Hate My Computer

  1. Oh, Lea, I feel your pain. I can’t even count the number of software programs I’ve learned to use for email or making files or webpages and then lost because they became obsolete when I “upgraded.” The last time around, after the new pc was in place, I realized my old zip drive would no longer work and had to hope everything was also backed up on … I don’t even know what to call them. CDs, I guess. Not that it matters. The new computer will read them and let me copy files to the hard drive, but I can no longer back up that way either. I’m left with flash drives, which aren’t really meant for long-term storage, and the cloud, which I refuse to trust at all. And people wonder why I keep printouts of everything!!!


  2. Deanna says:

    When I upgraded my pc – and I do still have a pc, I went to Windows 7 and I hope I do not have to change again until they have Windows 20 perfected! Dee

  3. MCWriTers says:

    I feel your pain, Lea. I hate upgrades for this reason.

    After wrestling with viruses so many times, I decided to join Mac world. Only after a year with this machine, I still can’t figure out where it puts things. Or why, when I have a number of windows open, it will suddenly decide to slide to another window when I’m right in the middle of typing something.

    I understand that there are many clever people in Asia who are underemployed, and I would like one to come and sit in my house, be my CTO, and just fix these things when they go wrong. I know. I could pack the thing up and and trundle off to the apple store…but the apple store is so crowded and noisy and insane that it only reminds me of one of the greatest joys of being a writer–getting to be all alone for hours at a time in the peace and quiet of my office.

    We soldier on. I have a book that is literally “missing” from a former computer transfer, because unlike you, I didn’t print out a back-up. Or I printed it out and can’t find it among the 5 revisions of 22 books that overwhelm me in my office.

    Yes. We soldier on.

  4. thelma straw says:

    Oh, do I EVER feel your pain too!!!!!!!! By the truckload!!!!! I don’t often have much of a temper – but one of these days the little men with white jackets are going to swarm into my apartment and lug me off to that place in Moscow – for my temper tantrum at my computer!!!!!!!!! Thelma

  5. Brenda Buchanan says:

    Oh Lea, you have captured this experience perfectly. There is nothing – nothing! – that causes my blood pressure to go from normal to danger zone than computer frustration. You have my sympathy and best wishes for figuring out the darned thing.

    Also, Kate suggests hiring an underemployed person from Asia to help out. Even simpler, a random 12-year-old! They all seem to understand this stuff intuitively.

  6. Maddy Hunter says:

    Honest, Lea, I’d rather have relationship problems than computer problems. At least with relationships, I have the tools to fix the problem. With computers? Forget it. 🙁

  7. I guess we all identify with your issues with the computer. We can’t live with ’em and can’t live without ’em! We had some bad weather recently, and I suddenly realized the whole computer could be gone in one big wind storm. I frantically decided I needed to do some serious back up. Not just my flash drives. Got registered on a system and realized it would take a couple of days to back everything up! If my house blew away that afternoon, I was too late. Fortunately, for many reasons, the storms missed us. 🙂 Several days later, I got the message, everything was backed up and the system would continue to back up. Nice feeling. Now I realize all my books are really on my flash drives, and I don’t know if they get backed up when they’re plugged in. Guess I need to go back and put them on the hard drive! It’s never ending. Thanks for a good post. Nice to know we’re not alone.

  8. Margaret Koch says:

    Oh, Lea. You take me back to last September, when I bought a new HP tower from Best Buy, which crashed after three days. They replaced it. The second one lasted almost 30 days. Not my fault. Bad hard drives. They’d replace it again. I said I didn’t want another one of those. But everything else now had Windows 8 instead of Windows 7, except for a Samsung laptop, sitting there like the last unadopted dog in the pound. I could not face Windows 8. I bought the laptop, hooked it to a big monitor and a wireless keyboard and mouse. It’s what I’m writing my eighth book on. The neighbors think I’m having an affair with the Geek Squad. I’ve offered to adopt one of them (Geek Agent) just to have him around when I need him. Maybe I am having an affair with them. Some days white-out does not seem so bad.

  9. John Clark says:

    Windows 8 totally stinks. We have 1 PC at the library running it and I detest going anywhere near it. If we buy any more, I’m going to make darn sure it has Windows 7. It seems like Microsoft screws up every other version of windows. I avoided Vista completely. Like everyone else who commented, I feel your pain and frustration. The first thing I tell anyone who asks me about buying a new PC/laptop. DO NOT GET WINDOWS 8.

  10. Jody says:

    I understand your pain. We just recently upgraded to a new PC. Our grandson made it for us & said we didn’t need to get Windows 8. Yay!
    However, for some mysterious reason, the sound has quit working. No YouTube videos. No TV or movies online. No jazz that my husband listens to via the web. Our grandson lives 2 hours away & is working. He tried to figure the problems via the phone. We downloaded a new sound driver. No luck. He sent a FB message to check inside the computer to see if the HD audio plug was still plugged in. It is.
    We’re taking the computer to him this weekend on the way to a wedding. At least our old very slow computer is still hooked up. IT IS SLOW!!
    Re the cloud: a friend has a son-in-law who is a minister. His computer crashed. He got it fixed. Tried to access 5 years worth of sermons from the cloud to reload on the computer. They are not there. Don’t trust the cloud.
    I have photos and some documents on both flash drives and CDs. Hopefully we will never need them as backup because I’m afraid they’ll both fail us at the same time.

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  12. Wow, Lea, I just read this today. I’m still cruising along happily with a very old computer, using XP. I live in horror of the day I have to go through what you’ve just gone through. Sometime in the past year my email crashed. I had, thank goodness, saved the address book on a thumb drive, but I lost ALL my emails. So far, the records I have in WordPerfect are intact, and I’ve backed up a lot of them too. But if the next system is so different that my backups don’t work–argh! Part of my thinks I should try working my way into a new machine when I’m not a a critical point in a book. The rest of me curls up in a little ball to make it all go away.

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