After 20 years of exemplary service in behalf of mankind, my antiquated home computer — possibly in a snit over something I had written — crashed and burned, so to speak, moments after I had filed last week’s column. Because I then had the perfect excuse to go out and buy a new laptop computer with all of the latest bells and whistles attached, I did.
To say that advances in computer technology in the past two decades are mind-boggling for a retrograde old dawg who, until three years ago, communicated with the outside world via a rotary dial telephone mounted on his kitchen wall — and who still has a 1972 model automobile parked in his garage — is not exactly a news flash. To say that he remains locked in cultural shock as he continues to make amazing discoveries by clicking on various icons on his super-size 17.3-inch computer screen is to state the obvious.
I have been told by people who know about such things that this baby can do just about anything short of launching the space shuttle. In a phone conversation with Phil Joyce, a stalwart member of this newspaper’s talented computer geek squad at headquarters, I read a list of its awe-inspiring endowments that included an im-pressive four gigabytes of memory. No doubt about it, I had acquired a weapon of potential mass destruction that must not be allowed to fall into the wrong hands, Joyce said. It was a bit late for that, I suggested, as he would come to see before our conversation had terminated.
As he prepared to talk me through the steps that would put man and machine into compatible operating mode by my Friday morning deadline, I asked him if he could program the monster to write a weekly column by itself. Such an accomplishment would be above his pay grade, he said. But he could easily get the enterprise up and running in jig time, if I would but pay attention to his directions.
And once again, this man with the patience of Job when dealing with the technologically learning-impaired accomplished his long-distance magic — this time operating blind, without having in front of him a computer employing the same updated software as my new toy.
The best thing about a battery-powered laptop, other than being a desirable object for some ne’er-do-well to steal from the front seat of my pickup truck, is its portability. (The worst thing is a touch-sensitive built-in keyboard mouse that only a masochist blessed with light fingers could love.) When I tire of writing the weekend drivel here in my home, I can take the device out under a shade tree or tote it up Mount Katahdin and write amongst the boulders atop Baxter Peak.
On Thursday, at the apex of The County’s temporary flirtation with the temperatures of summer, only a dope would have willingly remained indoors. I carried the computer to my southern-exposed deck and half-heartedly began dissecting a recent Associated Press sports story about ever-increasing salaries of Major League Baseball players.
But the lure of the mysteries contained in the laptop’s inner sanctum was too strong to resist. I soon gave up the writing gig as a bad job, turning instead to clicking on the various icons displayed on the computer screen to see what may transpire.
An icon showing a couple of books turned out to be a handy dictionary, while another that appeared to be a coffee cup full of pencils told me it was something called “new painting.” I dared not mess with that one, nor with another one that appeared to depict some sort of skull and crossbones, for fearing of inadvertently touch-ing of World War III.
I found by pressing a down-arrow that I had easily a couple of hundred typefaces from which to choose, and I briefly toyed with messing with the mind of my BDN editor by choosing an exotic species resembling something the cat might have dragged in. Ultimately, I selected a clean and crisp 12-point Times New Roman that is hard not to love.
Meanwhile, my search for the button that will produce the perfect weekend OpEd page column continues.
BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. Readers may reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.