I was lucky and got my first opportunity to mess around on a computer as young as seven and I was hooked. A little text-only adventure game on an Apple called (with great originality) Apple Adventure. It answered anything more complex than a two-word command with the startlingly eloquent reply: “what?”. Then when I was eleven I got my own ZX Spectrum which was incredibly powerful to me but wouldn’t be used to run a modern digital watch.
Then I hit puberty and the hormones set in. My trusty companion was packed in in favour of girls. This is a much longer and more complex story which ends with me getting another computer at the age of twenty-two. Women, I decided, were way too complex and changeable to remain top priority in my life if I was to maintain any semblance of sanity. Trying to stay on the same wavelength let alone the same planet I found to be nigh impossible. And I had an excuse too. I needed one for my business. Yes, that was it. For my business.
The basics of the Computers vs. Women idea were sound. Computers don’t ask for cuddles when you’re trying to read a book. They play games with you that you find enjoyable and they do it whenever you want. They have to follow logic at all times because they are machines and if part of it starts to have a breakdown you simply replace it. It never asks you to go shopping with it and not only will it not complain if you watch dirty movies, it will actually show them to you. It doesn’t tie up the telephone for hours (except when I’m on the Internet) or, for that matter, the bathroom. If I’m going out it doesn’t insist on coming with and then keep me waiting for an hour before calling me ‘insensitive’ when I eventually declare that I don’t care what it wears as the cinema will be dark and I won’t be able to see it anyway.
I sit here in front of this infernal machine at the age of twenty-six and I think I made a mistake. The creators of the modern PC are obviously evil madmen or at least drug addicts (possibly both). I know that my computer may go down on me far more than my girlfriend did but the difference is that when my computer does it: it isn’t a pleasant experience.
Modern computers don’t allow you any time to read because you’re always fixing them. They do play games with you up to the point where you see the message: “General Protection Fault in Module Oh Hell Who Cares Anyway: Your computer will now die a spectacular death (taking the largest and most important of your non-backed up files with it),” and they do it whenever they want. It is possible they follow some form of logic but not one known by man (I think it’s possible, though, that women may get it if they start paying attention). You still get to simply replace parts if it’s having a breakdown but the question begs: which part? I seem to have more luck tracking down problems that cost me R1000 to have repaired by a technician but still seem to be there when the technician is finished. Your computer also, now, asks you to go shopping with it. Internet shopping adverts are almost impossible to get away from. Although it will still show me dirty movies, so will my video recorder (on a bigger screen, too). It has messed up my evening plans delaying me for hours re-installing Windows but, I must admit, to this date it has never tied up the bathroom.
Whereas I only got promised by my girlfriend that she would go down on Christmas and Birthdays all our computers have promised to go down on us come midnight, December 31st 1999.
So I have switched off the infernal machine, installed another telephone line, caught up on all my reading, hidden the dirty movies, stocked up on Valium, bought a copy of “Women are from Venus, Men are from the Outer Hebrides” and got a good pair of walking shoes for those shopping trips. Oh, and I have taken to reading just before going out instead of in bed.
As for the bathroom, well, small sacrifices eh?