Jewish World Review Dec. 2, 2003 / 7 Kislev, 5764

Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Leonard Pitts, Jr.
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Consumer Reports

Ah, the many joys of computer ownership | It is spring.

I walk into my home office ready to work. My computer is not. It seems to have smoked crack overnight and will not function, despite repeated rebooting, several sharp slaps to the CPU and curses upon the name Bill Gates.

I call technical support. Technical support explains that I am in deep waste matter and must reinstall the operating system. This, in turn, will require me to reinstall all my software and hardware.

Crying like a baby will not help.

I reinstall the operating system. Also, my scanner and printer, my Scrabble and SimCity, my Bible and dictionaries, and a bunch of other stuff. Working off and on, this takes a few days.

When I am done, the computer has more bugs than my old apartment in the projects. Worse, it has passed the crack pipe to my printer, which now declines to print because, it says, the paper is jammed. It says this even after I have removed every scrap of paper within a six-foot radius.

I buy myself an iPod, a device that will allow me to record thousands of songs to my computer, download them and carry them with me on the plane trips that are the bane of my existence. But when I get it home, I find that my new iPod isn't. New, that is. There are some 1,800 songs already on it, along with more fingerprints than a toddler's mirror.

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I have been sold a used machine, packaged and priced as new. Far be it from me to embarrass the electronics superstore that did this by naming it in public; suffice to say, this wasn't the best buy I ever made.

It takes visits to two stores over the better part of an evening, but eventually I get a new new iPod. It serenades me while I beg my printer to acknowledge my existence.

Summer comes.

I visit a writer friend in North Carolina and pity him. He's computer illiterate and proud of it. I tell him the Internet is the best research tool a writer could have. I tell him to wake up and smell the 21st century. He just shrugs.

When I get home, I take my car to the shop. It occurs to me that if the auto industry ran like the computer industry, I'd be in a world of hurt. I can just see myself on the phone with Toyota Technical Support being guided through a transmission overhaul. Sometimes, it seems like I talk to technical support more than I do my wife, but I am determined to eradicate these bugs. Of course, the bugs seem just as bent on eradicating me.

Meanwhile, my printer is still on crack. Even at this, it is in better shape than my iPod, which has been possessed by Satan. It now refuses to download new songs, mysteriously erases old ones, and causes the computer to freeze every time I plug it in. It also levitates above the desk and spits pea soup when I reach for it.

Fall arrives.

I decide to exchange my new new iPod for a new new new one. It turns out they no longer make the model I have. I ask the salesman if the updated version will be compatible with my computer. He says it will. He is just joking.

It turns out that, in order to use my new-to-the-third power iPod, I must buy and install a new computer operating system to replace the one I restored last spring. I do this and naturally, a number of programs immediately stop functioning. My printer is still paper-phobic. I consider enrolling it in a 12-step program.

Instead, I take it to a technician who advises me to reinstall the printer's software. Miraculously, this fixes the printer and it works for almost 20 minutes. Then it becomes jammed with invisible paper again. Somehow, I resist hurling it through a window. Instead, I buy a new printer.

As I'm hauling it to the car, I think of my poor writer friend. Still hammering on his typewriter. Still driving all the way to the library to do his research.

I am sad for him. He doesn't know what he's missing.

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