Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Problems. Technically Speaking.

I have made a huge mistake.

It wasn't one of those "play Your Song on the ex's lawn with a ghettoblaster and have her not be there and be scolded by her dad who never really liked you in the first place" mistakes. Nor one of those "seriously, I didn't see the hole before I put it in" mistakes. Or even deciding that you can dance on a table top after that last keg stand kind of mistake. No, mine was a good idea that backfired in an un-winnable situation. What I did was mindless, stupid, and hurtful.

I convinced my family to get a new home computer.

It has been a week and I still don't know why I did it. Seemed like a great idea at the time. All I heard was complaints about how the computer was so slow, that e-mail took forever, that Outlook Express would simply not work and the computer would have to be restarted (a 15 minute ordeal). I heard the horror stories of crawling through cyberspace on a cable modem. I saw them languish in a corner after the computer would show the Blue Screen of Death or simply just shut down without any rhyme or reason. The 1998 Gateway (remember them? the cow box company?) should have been put out to pasture about four years ago. But as an e-mail and Word machine, it could have gone on for my parents for a few years. I was too busy tooling around on my brand new Powerbook G4.

Finally the time came where I told my parents that their computer was on life support and needed to be put out of its misery. It's too old, and keeping it around any longer would make everyone around it suffer. It was time to Old Yeller the family computer. We shared great times. The first time I...you know...was thanks to that computer and a Yahoo search for Chloe Jones pictures. I played the Sims for days at a time, since you literally forget that any time outside of the one on the computer is actually passing. I wrote on my wrestling opinion board there. It's where the BWF website started. But it was now a piece of shit. On second thought, that is disrespectful to fecal matter.

I decided it would be easiest if the next computer was an apple. The iMac model was just a screen, a keyboard, and a mouse. That's it. It really can't get simpler than that. I should have seen the snags coming when my mom asked why we couldn't keep our 70 pound 15" monitor that is so used it would kill an epileptic. "Why would we use the old monitor when we could get you a new, clean, fresh one that won't make you go blind as quickly as this hunk of crap currently is?" Her response was, "but I like the old one." This should have been my red flag. Onward I pushed, as it was my manifest destiny to get a new computer.

My mom, my friend Scott, and I all went to the Mac store a few minutes from my house. We bring along Scott because he is our resident computer expert. It has come to the point where my parents don't trust me enough to do anything without his approval. Sure, he works at the Geek Squad at Best Buy and really does know his craft, but christ, I know how to buy a mouse. We work our way over to the iMacs. Immediately I run away because my mom needs a lot of questions answered that would drive me insane. Luckily, Scott is trained to sell computers. He sells her on the iMac. I look at a bluetooth mouse.

My mom asks about an iPod. I cringe. One thing at a time apparently isn't enough. To the iPod Nanos we go. Scott pulls out a white model that gets a resounding "I want a black one!" I have to explain that we can get one, but this is just the model. Scott just picks up a black one. I should have taken notes. Scott starts a quick tutorial about how to get music, how it's sorted by artist, album, song, and shows how to play a song. My mom sees the "podcast" option. Scott starts to go into his spiel and I stop him and say "it's not worth it." She shoots me a look; I know it's for the best. Scott agrees.

As we're on line buying the machine--and fighting off the applecare option with the asshole behind the desk who is rolling his eyes at my non-purchase--my mom asks, "can I play my casino game on there?" Uh oh. We've hit Defcon 1. I explain to her that no, you cannot, because our computer at home uses the obsolete-as-soon-as-it-was-created Windows ME and this is a Mac. They do not work together too well. It's like a Klansman and G-Unit. The panic sets in. "Can I play spider solitare? You mean I CAN'T play it? You never told me this! When were you going to tell me this?" Defcon 2. She and Scott frantically start looking for software that would replicate the experience. I quickly sign the credit card receipt and get the hell out of the store.

We get home and I set the computer up. I nearly get a hernia moving the old Gateway monitor. I get everything moved out and set up the new computer in minutes. God do I love Apple products. My mom comes down and I have to have her put in a password for her account on the computer, so that her and my dad can have their own desktops, screen savers, e-mail set ups, etc. etc. It works out better for everyone. "Wait...what is this password for? Do I use my e-mail password?" I explain the concept to her. She half-heartedly assigns a new password. I call her down some time later to set up her e-mail program and ask her to put in her password. "Do I put in the old one or the new one?" The one you use for that e-mail address. "The one I just put in?" Yes, if that is the same password. If it isn't, then no. The one you use for thta e-mail address. "Oh, ok. Cause I put in the wrong one." And before she goes upstairs, I get the "I don't know why you can't just use the old keyboard. This new one is completely different." Completely different means that there isn't a whole shitload of plastic around the outsides for me to spill Yoo-Hoo on. Raise it to Defcon 3.

The next day I carry over all of my parents word documents and everything that they saved in their own li'l places (Ken's Work Place and Cathy's Den). I figure this is more than enough for them to have. My dad says to wait for the weekend to explain it all to him. My mom is eager to start using the iPod, so she comes downstairs with me to show her how to use iTunes and the iTunes music store. I don't think it would be that hard. iTunes is the program with the cd and the music note prominently displayed on said audio cd. You buy music in the iTunes store. You buy each song where it says "buy song." She should know how to do this.

Of course, she doesn't. I explain it to her painstakingly; getting upset half way through because she simply isn't thinking. Instead of trying to figure it out she is in her own world of shell shock, too dumbfounded to reasonably look at this technology as something she can interpret. It is easy. It is! It's MADE to be easy. I told her to go downstairs and do it on her own and she got the hang of it in a few minutes. She even found things I didn't know about. Defcon 3 is holding. I'm somewhat relieved that she figured something out on her own. The iPod isn't even a problem! Things are looking good.

I sign Dad up on the computer. I run through everything, show him how to do certain things, and where his folder is. He is happy. A few days later he asks where all of his e-mails are. I figured it would be known that you sort of start new with a new computer and start a new stack of e-mails. Of course, he waits til 11 PM to inform me of his need to find this one particular e-mail sent to him a month ago. Why could he not have realized that he only has two messages on the new computer that the rest never made it over? Defcon 4.

Another problem arises when he can't print. "The printer doesn't work." I go downstairs, check the usb cable, check the paper, check to see if it's on. Everything is a go. I realize the problem is that the Excel program on there isn't fully installed yet, and you can't print. Microsoft makes it a little tough to pirate their software because you have to install it on Macs (unlike almost all of the Apple programs). I explain to him that I need to pirate the software. This gets a no reaction. "It was on the old computer, why can't it be on this one?" Well, if you want to pay the $200 for the legit thing, I'll get it for you tomorrow! "I just don't understand why." Things don't usually go smoothly between an eight year old Gateway and a brand new Mac. It just doesn't. "Well I don't know that! I just want it to work! Make it work!" Defcon 5. The nukes are shaking in the silos, folks.

Tonight I got the talk that I never said--explicitly--that the e-mails wouldn't come over. It was as if I could magically take everything that they wanted (without telling me) and put it over in the new computer. "You said the new computer would be faster, better, blah blah blah. We believed you." It's not like I'm lying - it is faster and better in almost every way. "I could lose my favorites, that's fine, but my address book? How can you not bring that over?" There is a way, but I need to get a program first, the same one that Dad needs. "Well I don't get how it all doesn't work and you never told us. We were led astray. And you better get the new program fast or your father is going to go apeshit."

Why do I even bother? Isn't it common knowledge that Windows and Mac don't always get along, let alone machines that are separated by nearly a decade? I'm not making a stretch here. Why can't our parents' generation accept computers? Sure, we have been working on them our whole lives, and our generation can really fool around with anything. But it's the lack of basic computer knowledge that baffles me. Our parents use computers every day. They aren't perfect, and they aren't all the same, but there are certain similarities. For example, almost every Mail program is the same. Almost every web browser is the same. But why can they not make the connection?

They simply refuse to learn. This is the generation that doesn't think that any music after '72 is worth listening to. The generation that laments EVERY single that change that has ever come, including anything that is priced. Oh really, that's great, but movies are now ten dollars. If you don't want to pay it, shut the fuck up and try and find a Nickelodeon, stupid. This is the same group that tried to change the world through peace and love and got nothing out of it but bitterness. Now these jaded middle-aged folk are flat out refusing to take part in anything based on the grounds of "I can't learn" or "I don't need it."

Yes, you can and yes, you do. I don't get the stigma with computers. Is it the lingo? The idea of a portable communication device that allows you access to the world scares people who remember having a black and white TV wheeled out in the 50s? "We don't like change." No one likes change. But, we all learn to accept it begrudgingly and move on. You are not an exception. You are not special. You know how to use a computer but are afraid to confront it. It's so much easier to throw your hands up in the air and give up. Stop being a quitter. There is nothing to fear but paper jams and error messages.

The upside is I think that I got a new computer to take to college with me.


Pam said...

My mom just COULDN'T get the hang of copying and pasting files one day, which led to me finally giving up and her crying to my brother that she thought she "broke" my laptop. It's almost as good as the time she kept typing and "losing everything already typed!!!" because of the insert key, something she'd never heard of.

Parents and computers: always a good time.

Anonymous said...

I still REALLY want to meet your mom. If I come to Jersey can that be arranged?


PS I'm glad you're back to feeling creative

Cara said...

My dad always freaks out about computers. Particularly because he has no patience and any time a computer takes more than five seconds to complete an action, he tries to fix it somehow. Of course he inevitably screws it up further. Heh.

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Anonymous said...

you got your DEFCONs backwards.

Anonymous said...

you got your DEFCONS backwards.

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