Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Mr. G, my seventy-eight year old neighbor, is one of the friendliest and nicest people I've had the pleasure to meet. Even though he lost his wife to cancer two years ago and is now quickly losing his eyesight and hearing, I have never seen a trace of bitterness come across his continence. When he asked me to come over and have a look at his computer, I was more than willing to show some neighborly kindness.

"The screen doesn't come on," he explained. "Can you come over and see if it needs to be replaced? It's pretty old."

I sort of expected what I found from my retired accountant of a neighbor. He had a 15-or-more-year-old IBM XT computer, complete with amber-on-black display that wasn't lighting up at all. It sat on a simple pressboard desk, with a dot matrix printer and a plastic filing box of 5 1/4 inch floppies beside it. After a quick inspection, I found a loose connection where the monitor's cable plugged into the display adapter. Once I tightened it up, the screen came back to life to the full 12 diagonal inches of glory that it had been before.

When the monitor had come back on, I noticed that the computer's clock wasn't displaying the correct date. It was asking for confirmation that it was really January 1st, 1980, indicating to me that the internal clock battery was dead. I decided against suggesting to replace it. Why, you might ask? Mr. G told me that he had initially been unsure of how to operate the computer. After being shown the series of keystrokes that would let him do some word processing, he finally became comfortable. It had taken him a some time, but now he could do some typing for the Boy Scouts and his church group. Hearing this made me think of scores of people who didn't deal well with change, or maybe just didn't need any more change in their lives. I had stood before them in a classroom, telling them about copying and pasting text when all they wanted to do was to press the right keys to make a nice, neat letter to their friend come out of the printer.

Did I really want to throw a wrench into Mr. G's routine? He had become accustomed to entering the date and time on startup. My decision - "Why mess with his system?"

In the end, Mr. G was happy. Once again, his computer worked the same way it had for the past ten years. It probably will work the same way for the next ten years, too.

To hell with the advancement of technology.

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