Time to update

Somebody said my computer was old, they did, they did.

Then another blessed with a pronounced sense of humour, asked what Windows I used. And as if this was overheard somewhere out there in some cyber conspiracy, website after website wanted to know my computer’s credentials – then turned it away… 

My computer. An everyday workhorse was something to cuss when it turned mulish, but still a vehicle to explore cyberspace, still something functional for basics, like typing. Some friends were not just incredulous, but aghast that it took five minutes to warm up before reluctantly conceding it was time to work. A pause for meditation I told them, but their noses were already back to their latest text.

My centenarian father-in-law would have warmed to my machine. “What’s the hurry – what’s five minutes?” he’d say standing by his kitchen bench, monitoring his manual toaster. Every now and then he’d flick open each side to check on the bread – he never trusted automatic toasters and felt hassled by their peremptory pop-ups. In his beach home, they were hurry-ups from what had become an alien, instant society.

He was right – partly. The old fellow was a survivor of an admirable can-do, DIY generation in which change came at glacial pace. Now technological changes urge us to rush to txt back that txt, answer that call and fatefully for me, to update. Which is what happened when my old PC was swapped for a new one.

If occasionally I wanted to put a fist through my old screen, then every day I opened this replacement, I wanted to take a hammer to it. Tech-savvy friends and neighbours explained I’d just spent too long my on XP Atoll and now the real cyber world was opening up to me. True, but with bewildering speed and choice. Did I really want to switch windows, go to reading mode; did I desperately need split, zoom, macros and much more?

Nope, but now there’s no going back. All I needed to do was to get familiar with my computer. So I did, delving into settings and choosing those which the machine had clearly forgotten. Job done. I wandered off for a cuppa and returned to a computer whose navigation bar had disappeared taking most of the tabs with it.

Where was that hammer when I needed it most?  But I retreated to the familiarity of a good book and forgot about the machine and all its (former) temptations.

The next day I approached the thing with dread, fluffed its fingerprint test but signed in anyway – and then to my huge relief, found everything in order. Of course, said my friends – like we said, you spent too much time on that XP island. True, but there it was as familiar as a favourite armchair – a bit like that manual toaster.

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.