Home > Happy Holidays Fun, The Monday Musings Column > on computers and me, part seven

on computers and me, part seven

I had planned to go freelance in the early Noughties, after an impending takeover of my employer made it likely that I might be shown the door. Instead, I was one of those kept on and, for the Berkshire Belle, something similar happened, and so the opportunity for us to go back into a working partnership slipped away. However, we had formed a limited company and needed a web site, email et al.

At home the original Amstrad PC was long gone, replaced initially by a Packard Bell, then one mail ordered from Mesh, in turn swapped for another ordered on the web from Dell. All of these were upgraded as and when necessary, with more RAM, bigger hard drives, faster processors and so on. We had adopted the Web fairly early, back in the dial-up when required days, then to an always-on connection and then Wi-Fi, and so moving to having our own website was a new adventure.

Around the time of setting up a registered company we also bought a holiday home in Florida and were planning on renting that out. That needed another web site and, with two domains registered and parked, we needed content. One of my team at work had a son who was getting into web design and offered to do the Florida villa site for us. He set up a landing page using some software that he had (Dreamweaver rings a bell) and we uploaded it. That one page took all of the memory available within the hosting package that I had bought.

There had to be a better way, and so I bought an HTML book and wrote the first two websites myself. High quality images for the villa site took up a lot of space, but by avoiding all of the baggage that comes with using a software package we were fine and avoided the exorbitant hosting costs that I would have had to incur to support what my colleague’s son was producing. All of that economic and sleek programming philosophy that I had been taught in my COBOL days, when we only had about 1K of memory to play with, came to the fore, but this time in HTML. In the end we had more than ten web sites as I ran various business ventures in my efforts to make a crust, but most of these are long gone now and I have not written any HTML since 2019 when we sold the villa.

I did enjoy it though. Whilst I didn’t get around to building a PC from scratch, the constant upgrading and programming gave me a lot of pleasure. The latter also saved us a fair bit of money with it all being done in-house. I am starting to miss it and, having moved the last couple of websites over to WordPress, it is like being in a straight jacket. I will get the hang of WP at some point, but I find it harder to use now than I did when I started with it, for every upgrade that is supposed to help seems to make it harder to do anything.

This is one of my beefs about computers. I don’t want them to think for me unless I ask them to, and, with every software upgrade, I find that I am turning off features. I used to love Lotus software because it was very easy to customise, and I was sad when they vanished. My early prejudice against Windows (I was very snobby about it when it first arrived) dissipated and I can remember the excitement when I got my hands of Windows 95 to upgrade whatever PC we had back then. These days I almost dread a new version of software and can rarely find anything that helps me very much in terms of what I want to do.

It isn’t just computers in desktop/laptop/tablet forms. The computer interference in my cars is equally maddening. I first encountered this in 2002 when I had a new Land Rover Freelander and, one damp evening on the run home from Newcastle to Swindon, decided to relieve my boredom on the Brackley by-pass. Deliberately chucking the Freelander into a roundabout to get the back to break away I was faced with all sorts of mayhem and the car’s brain tried to get me out of something that I had provoked and was perfectly capable of dealing with it if it would only leave me to it. Fortunately, between us, I did not end up in the ditch. Even turning off traction control didn’t entirely solve the problem and I resigned myself to another fun aspect of driving had gone.

My current car has a marked tendency to sulk if I transgress in some way and I am frequently bonged at for my sins. That reminds me of some of my early experiences with satellite navigation systems. I am a maps man: I have been since I bought myself an old world atlas for sixpence at a jumble sale when I was about seven. My navigation skills have often been commented on and I usually say that I am a direct descendent of Vasco da Gama (although he was actually lost most of the time). But sat-nav came along and I use it from time to time, but I used to switch the voice so that I got the instructions in German. I used to call my navigator Brunhilda and would love to piss her off by ignoring her and going my own way. She never did try to get me to invade Poland though: Probably didn’t trust me not to go after Denmark instead.

I was equally snobby about Apple at one time. I had come across an Apricot PC back in 1987 when I filled in for someone for three months and it was what they were using. I did get the hang of it, but it was Microsoft operating systems that I became used to at work and at home. Apple seemed to me to be all style over substance. The change came when the Berkshire Belle bought me an iPod for Christmas. It still took a long time, but then an iPad mini came along from the same source. Then I got my first iPhone. Eventually, also leaned on heavily by number one daughter, I bought the MacBook Air on which this blog is being written.

The transition has not been easy. There is still a lot about the way a Mac works that drives me bonkers and I still have two HP laptops that are about twelve years old and have been much travelled; North and South America, Libya, China, Thailand and more. One is still on Windows 7, the other recently upgraded to Windows 11 (I’ve also got the HP PC that used to be in the villa, I don’t use it too often, but…).

Another “helpful” aid that drives me mad is tapping. I came across it with no warning when I acquired the first of the HP laptops I mentioned just now. I was setting it up and at some point, dragging my finger across the touchpad, I ran out of pad, lifted my finger to move it over a bit and then, as it landed back on the pad, things happened. Eek (that’s a polite word: I used something stronger). I couldn’t understand what was happening, the bloody thing seemed to have a mind of its own. I plugged in a mouse, got control back, found that I had encountered tapping and turned it off. The MacBook has a form of tapping, but I’ve somehow got used to that and don’t have any issues, but, having tried it again on both HPs, it has me screaming in seconds.

Another thing that infuriates me is the dumb insolence that computers can demonstrate. Stroppy teenagers have nothing on them. You try to load some new software, or to delete some old stuff or similar and get a message that tells you it hasn’t done what you asked because you have a file open. If you know that I have a file open, THEN TELL ME WHICH ONE IT IS AND I’LL CLOSE IT! There are ways around these things, of course, but there have been many times when there has almost been a laptop sized hole in the window.

But computers have been good to me. I have had a working life that took me from the shop floor to the boardroom, and that path really took off when I applied for the programmer’s job. If I had not have taken that route, then I would never have met the Berkshire Belle. She and I have been together for thirty-three years now, nearly half of my life, not quite half of hers. Computers may give me grief from time to time, but they have given me a lot of pleasure. I’ll forgive them anything for giving me the woman of my dreams.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: