Why I Don't Compute

by Al Fry

After spending over a decade assaulted with nonstop campaigning to join the computer age, I am finally recognizing a disturbing fact. I hate computers.

I tried to be fair about it. But over and over, I've compared the old ways of doing business and data management with the computer way, and frankly, the computer way falls short most of the time. How could this be? Almost everyone with a computer is telling me how efficient they are, and how much fun 'surfing the net' is. Could it be that I'm simply getting too old to appreciate the wonders of modern technology, or too stupid to see the advantages right in front of my nose? Well, I'm reminded that almost everyone with a lemon for an auto will tell you that their brand is the best. People invariably tout the toys or monsters they have, and it has little to do with quality or common sense.

All those programs that get sold as so efficient and helpful as tools are not only clumsy and expensive, they're outdated by several years the minute they come out of their box. Obsolescent is the favorite strategy of all the corporate giants, and you can bet your boots that your printers, monitors, and computers, will be superseded by new models before they get broken in good.

Should you linger too long in spending your thousands for that new toy, your old one will no longer be easy to get serviced. Service itself can be a constant financial drain. Most of the computer owners I know have spent countless hours on tech support and upgrading for efficiency.

They spend a good part of their lives hunched in front of the infernal flickering screens - and like TV addicts, I suspect they go into trance or turn brain dead for a time. Instead of turning the things off, most users just keep them running away with their constant random pattern displays. It would seem that the machines sometimes have control over the users - forcing them to pay attention and treat them with tenderness and care. Heaven help you if a tiny grain of dirt or molecule of dust gets between the hard drive and the disk, or if some stray increase in voltage should come surging through the power lines. Your information will be lost, and you will be putting out more money to those greedy devious corporate giants.

Such corporate giants are masters at marketing plastic toys to grown children - forget that toys are supposed to be for children. They get buyers way in over their heads, and most of these 'space age' products are just sophisticated ripoffs. Only a few decades ago we could buy sturdy metal adding machines and typewriters that would last for years. Card filing systems never broke down and required thousands of dollars and hours to update or keep running. What the public has run into is a back door technological assault on their finances and clear thinking. All that money is flowing to the telephone companies, the credit card companies, the machine suppliers, and the program makers. Precious little gets to the consumers or little guys. This is big money going out. One study showed a typical business spending 40 thousand dollars on a PC in their 1st 5 years. Larger outfits with a couple of thousand computers will spend something like 15 million dollars a year to keep them operating. Do you wonder why prices keep shooting up on their products when they have such overheads?

This is clearly insanity when you take a look at how wasteful and problem prone this field is. All common sense is slowly going out the window in the name of corporate profits. In my area, I like to think there is a little more savvy available. Locals, who tend to be ranchers and loggers, are often rejecting newer cars with all the computer junk on them.

One guy I heard of simply left his new Chevy truck on the top of a distant mountain after its computer failed for the 4th time. Often it takes several hundred dollars and a new module to get these newer models going again. "Oh, you're just a paranoid spoil sport" a friend told me. "Wait until you get on the net and the superhighway! You'll love it."

If it were truly free - or at least cheap - it would be great. It isn't. The machinery and technology costs dearly and the superhighway has toll bridges all along the way. With snoopy government agencies locked on, you can't even be sure where your communications wind up stored away - like maybe that business deal is getting put away in IRS files. "Oh that could never happen" is not what I get from some programmers.

Talk to programmers and you will hear horror stories of many kinds. Computer malfunctions are costing millions and you can see a constant stream of mistakes in most stores you go to nowadays. The clerks hit the wrong buttons, the coding is wrong and on and on...

"Oh but it's cheaper in the long run', is very doubtful. Banks did all right before the PC revolution hit. Kids got better educated and learned to think. Take away an employee's adding and spelling toys, and many would seem devoid of basic skills. This trend is getting worse with each onslaught of new machines to aid us be good button pushers. "But it's so easy to make up books and publish". While this may be true, you can only push buttons so fast, and my little carbon ribbon typewriter can punch out words as fast as a PC. Pasting up snipped illustrations has always been mechanically fun to me, and labels are as easy as pie to make up on a zerox machine. Why would I want to depend on some temperamental, fragile, expensive toy to block off such pleasures as I get....

I could go on about bar codes and the strategy of the new world order in mechanizing humanity, but I'll spare you and close by remembering what an avatar friend of mine once told me concerning all these toys.

He explained that we are nearing the end of a learning cycle, and within 20 years many persons will have boosted their brain wattage to the point that miracles will be common place. In order to give us the confidence and knowledge that such things are possible, hi-tech machines are helpful and introduced by design. TV's, you may recall, mimic sight, etc etc. So don't mind my criticisms. I'll simply use my money and time for projects with more free time and fun connected to them.

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