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Despite This We Stay: Computer Industry vs. Car Industry

by Carol Dunn

EARTH — There’s a spoof email I received (on its second trip around the globe) comparing the computer industry with the auto industry. It’s possible that, if automobile technology had kept up with computers, we would be driving $100 cars that weigh 10 pounds and get 1,000 miles to the gallon. Even cooler, cars could travel fast enough to get us to the moon in 15 minutes. Not that I would want to go to the moon, but sometimes I think it would be cool to pop over to Australia for some kangaroo shish-ke-bobs and still be back in time to watch Hawaii Five-O.

I have a love-hate relationship with my computer. It used to crash for no good reason – not that there IS a good reason – and it would happen when I was in a creative zone and I forgot to save my work. And yet, instead of junking out the computer, I hired someone who gets paid as much as a car mechanic to flip some dumb little switch or insert some magic word of code, and then me and my computer could reach an understanding – that the computer is in control.

I hate upgrading computer software. I’d rather face down a rabid raccoon with a plastic fork than go through a software upgrade. When my computer technician INSISTS that I upgrade, I automatically get out my dunce hat and go sit in the corner. Why can’t software authors leave stuff where it was and just make it work better? I try not to see a conspiracy in all of this, but it SEEMS like they’re creating job security. They move the menus around, change the icons, make everything look like a teenager has been using it, then when you can’t figure something out, you have to pay a computer technician to explain it. Hey, if I really wanted it to look different, I’d just hit it with a hammer.

The Why of Delete and Paste

And something I’ve been extremely curious about since my first computer. On the menu, WHY is “Delete” right next to “Paste?” I mean, come on, who in their right mind pays attention to what they’re doing when they are working on a document? Changing fonts, inserting indents, cutting, highlighting, pasting. A simple “Cut+Paste” operation can turn a bright, shiny day to a black disaster when a slip of the cursor selects “Cut+Delete.” Hellooo . . . software geniuses . . . this is the ONE THING that should have been changed clear back in 1980 but never has: put “Delete” in a corner of the screen where I can’t accidentally click it.

Sometimes I type so fast (faster than one word a minute) and I hit two keys at the same time, the combination of which locks my keyboard into ALL CAPS mode. The secret of which two keys is apparently a matter of national security, so you can only find the answer by reading two hours’ worth of manuals and tips. But one thing I have learned about computers, when something goes very wrong, I just turn off the computer, let it sit for a couple minutes, then turn it back on.

Not so with a car, which (talk about conspiracies) now has a computer built right into it, so the car AND the computer can gang up on us and TOGETHER control our lives and RULE THE WORLD. Pretty soon if your car shuts off, you will have to close all the windows, restart the car, and reopen the windows before you can continue. The oil, temperature, and alternator lights will be replaced by a single warning: ‘This Car Has Performed an Illegal Operation’. And the airbag will ask, “Are you sure?” before deploying.