OPINION: With computers, the customer isn’t always right  

OPINION: With computers, the customer isn’t always right  



I don’t know from technology, even though I use it every day. In fact, I’m using it right now, but I have no idea what I’ll do if something goes wrong.

At work it’s OK; if my Wi should refuse to Fi, I can always go whining to Dave the Tech Guy.

But Dave the Tech Guy doesn’t make house calls. At home I’m on my own, and last week my old computer conked out — something wrong with the turbo-dumaflinchie, I suppose. And by “old” I mean maybe 10 years.

Once upon a time, appliances could be expected to last for decades, like my mother’s early-1950s Frigidaire, which was still refrigerating 40 years later as Mom’s backup fridge in the garage, used only at Thanksgiving.

Anyway, so I took the computer to the shop. They said it could be fixed, but that would cost almost as much as a new one, so I got a new one. (Prices of these things have really come down.)

But I had them save me the hard drive, because I don’t want all my data to wind up on a slow boat to China or India or wherever it is that used computer parts go to die. Just being cautious.

And now I’m trying to get back to normal, even though I realize you can never get back to normal with these things, because the software is always being “updated.”

That is, they keep changing the way things look and the way things work (I think that’s called the “user interface”), just because they can. And now I’ve got to do online chat in order to get the new machine to “recognize” the old printer that’s sitting right next to it on the desk, and fix the audio so I can listen to Lulu singing “To Sir With Love.”

So I set up the new machine, hooking up the various wires and cables to the black box according to the diagram in the instruction booklet and running back to the store for a new LS/MFT cable, or whatever it’s called, because I figure if I don’t download enough TLC to this CPU, ASAP (even though I really don’t have enough personal bandwidth to understand any of this stuff) I’m likely to toss my cookies and crash into the cloud.

My intention, of course, was simply to turn the fool thing on. (Is that so much to ask?) Nowhere, however, does the instruction booklet tell you how to do that, so it took me half an hour to find the blankity-blank on-off button, which has been carefully hidden by the designers — for all practical purposes invisible, it’s a black button with no markings that’s flush with the black case of the machine.

Which brings us to my No. 1 gripe with all things computery: If the perpetrators of high tech go to such lengths to hide the on-off button — which is obviously the most important control on any device — what other stumbling blocks have they built into the experience? What further delights await the unwary user? And why do they do these things, anyway?

Well, because they enjoy screwing around with non-tech-savvy users such as Yrs Trly, that’s why.

And they’re allowed to get away with it.

We’ve gone from “the customer is always right” to “the user is always stupid.”

Stupid user here, signing off.

Reach Glenn Richter at grichter@record-journal.com.


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