Two Stomachs

Regarding this article, your mentor Carl “The Ancient One” says:

When you don’t understand how something works, and when many things go wrong that are effectively out of your control, you can easily be faked-out by a problem that you can fix yourself, like an unplugged monitor. Did the video driver go corrupt again? Did some electronic part go bad again? Are the energy-saving controls out of whack again? Does Windows need to be reinstalled again? If you couldn’t fix the last 50 problems you had this
month, you figure you better just call a technician.

When you feel like you understand your desktop computer and have some control over it, and when things rarely go wrong, you are far more likely to check the plug.

Unfortunately, so few people feel competent enough to troubleshoot their own problems, worried they will make it worse. You can’t count how many people you know who are intelligent, street-smart, and college-educated, brilliant at what they do (things like art, law, writing, more), who are terrified of their computers. When something goes wrong, they just freeze-up, panic, or walk away.

So much for computers being a productivity tool.

One of your friends actually likes Gator, but doesn’t understand why he’s plauged with spam and constant pop-ups, even when he’s not browsing the web.

Harlan Ellison writes:

It is not that I hate the technology. What I hate is them telling me that I am not entitled to work at the level of technology that best serves my purpose. Form follows function. If writing something creative is best served in your venue by using a quill pen, standing up at a lectern, then you do it. If it works best using a Pentium, then you do that. I operate at a level where I can best produce material using a manual typewriter. It fits my need. I get pleasure out of it. I get no pleasure from using a computer.

In order to do what I want it to do it has too many dials, it has too many things, too many toots and whistles that I have no use for. If somebody would produce a simple typewriter, an electronic typewriter that was silent, that I could use on airplanes, that would show me a screen of 8 1/2 by 11, like a regular page, and I could store it and print it out as a manuscript, I would buy one in a second! I have nothing against that, that would be a kind of a PC I could use.

But you notice, they won’t do that. They have the capacity and the intelligence and the technology to do it, but they haven’t done it. Now why haven’t they done it? They would rather have you have a screen of the other size, which is not adaptable for doing a manuscript, because they want to retrain the world. Well, I don’t feel like being retrained in that way.

This always reminds you of a quote from the Paul Theroux novel, Mosquito Coast, spoken by Allie Fox, an inventor disenchanted with American culture. He says:

We eat when we’re not hungry, drink when we’re not thirsty. We buy what we don’t need and throw away everything that’s useful. Why sell a man what he wants? Sell him what he doesn’t need! Pretend he’s got eight legs and two stomachs and money to burn.
It’s wrong! Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Sure, computers are prettier than they used to be — but are they really easier to use now than they were 5 years ago?

Where are we going?

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