Monday, April 4, 2011

Computer Inanimation

One of my first real jobs (i.e., one that did not involve either dirty dishes or shopping carts) was with the nation's second largest computer company, headquartered in a former woolen mill beside a pond in a quaint New England town.  Legend has it that if they ever drained that pond, they'd find hundreds of circuit boards flung from the windows by irate engineers over the years.  Personally, I have my doubts, particularly since engineers are not generally known for their athletic prowess.

But the fact that this story exists at all, and that it is widely believed, demonstrates what most people know intuitively: computers are out to get us!

Of course, all inanimate objects show a certain disdain that borders on hostility.  Traditional furniture is invariably violent towards unguarded toes, while more contemporary pieces have been known to target the elbows and head.  Toothpaste, dishwashing liquid and all manner of sauces have shown their contempt for my clothing.  Do I even need to mention razors and nail clippers?

But computers are especially nefarious.  They exhibit a certain inscrutable smugness not generally found in household appliances.  In fact, these are the very devices for which the term user-friendly had to be coined, which indicates the depth of their scorn.

Yet we blithely accept this insubordination.  We routinely trust these machines with our most precious and private information, photographs, letters, financial data and Facebook games.  We accept the familiar phrase, "The computer's down," as an excuse for everything from missed appointments to bad breath.  Often computer-related excuses are used in other situations as well.

GUY: Ginny, want to go out with me Saturday night?
GIRL (possibly named Ginny): Sorry, I'm defragging my hard drive then.

Every day brings more news stories of computer failures and security breaches.  Banks, trains, airlines, restaurants, hospitals ... all are totally dependent on computers now for safety and efficiency.  We put our lives literally in their ... uh, hands.  Ok, not so literally.

I'm putting a pond in my backyard.