I remember walking into my grandmother’s house and suddenly there was a full meal on the table. I have a friend in Maine who somehow produces shortcakes by the dozens without moving a finger. My own partner, CF, can do a little spin and clean the kitchen in an instant.
I used to have one of these magical powers. I could install and understand software in 10 seconds. People flocked from miles around to have me burp their electronic marvels back to harmonious buzzing. My nephew wrote his college application essay about how I introduced him to computers, and now he’s finishing his degree in computer science. I glanced at new hardware and understood it. I was a full-fledged nerd.
But then came Aug. 28, 2011. That’s the day that lightning metaphorically struck me, scarring my brain exactly at the spot that gave me my wondrous power over computers.
It’s been over five months now, and I went through a grueling test of my lack of power today. I needed to put some antivirus software on an old computer for my son, so he could use it for his online school (he’s going solo this year). Now, this normally would have been a snooze of a job. Click a few keys, go get a cuppa. Instead, it turned into two hours of now I understand why people hate computers.
As I said, it’s an old computer. I cranked up Internet Explorer and went to the Comcast website, where, as a subscriber, I can get antivirus software for free. Oops, Comcast tells me, I have to have IE 7 or later, and this old buzzard has IE 6, which, fortunately, has a Windows Update button. Otherwise, I’d be lost.
Windows Update is an automatic tool that comes with Windows that’s supposed to run at certain intervals to figure out if your software needs to be updated. This old buzzard hadn’t even been turned on for a while, so nothing had been run. So first, Windows Update has to update itself, which requires a reboot. So, OK. I’m game.
Now Windows Update presents me with a list of Required Recommended Suggested Essential Probable Estimated Punctuated Quadrupled Actuated Separated Updatable Updates Among Which I May Choose Select All Select None Start Over.
Since now I am lost, I select Select None. Then I hunt through the list, which is longer than springtime, find Internet Explorer 8, which I believe is even younger than Internet Explorer 7, and click it. My luck holds, and in just a few seconds it is downloading and installing onto the computer. I am gayer than laughter.
The computer prestidigitates, and Internet Explorer 8 shimmers into view. Back to the Comcast web site I glide, feeling quite like my pre-Aug. 28, 2011 self. Download, install, click, click. I grab the Sunday paper and wait. The old buzzard is slow.
I don’t realize it now, but I have fallen into a trap. Some undamaged portion of my brain has recognized that I am performing a task that I’ve done many times before, and performing it well, and is bathing my brain in chocolate-covered waves. At the same time, the damaged portion of my brain forces me to keep sneaking a look at the monitor, as it obediently marks the progress of the installation.
And finally the trap is sprung.
The installation finishes, and I allow a smile across my face. I have succeede—What?? Not enough memory?
The antivirus software says it doesn’t have enough memory to run on this computer. All of those chocolate waves are gone. In their place are pulses of pain from behind my eyes moving backwards.
Having written software for a living, having written software installations for a living, I try to count the number of places a decent programmer could have written code to check to see if the computer being used was suitable. Obviously someone checked to make sure the right version of Internet Explorer was available. From what I recall, it is easy to check if enough memory is available.
Too many places. I can’t count them, the places a decent programmer could have checked memory, before I spent two hours rebooting and downloading and waiting and installing. I don’t know if I can’t count them because there are too many, or because my brain is addled, but in any event, they are there, and I have spent two hours going in one huge lopsided circle.
Nothing to do but take a nap. Without a diaper. I’m home, after all. No one’s chaining me to the bed.