Saturday, March 18, 2006

A Story In Some Parts

Part One

For the last seven days I have been lost in Bee Tee hell … let me explain

It all started when a friend, who we will call Sharon to protect the innocent, wanted to add Bee Tee Broadband to her life. Sharon has an IMac G3 … one of those cute blue ones … which she has had for about six years. Now Sharon has never claimed to know very much about computers and the world is littered with such people, they know how to get their emails and to do the three things they need to do and that’s it.

Anybody reading this that has the slightest knowledge of computers knows how it works, it is like a food chain, at the bottom are people like Sharon, in the middle are people like myself, and above me are geeks. (See how I managed not to be a geek there).

I have used computers for about twenty years and gradually over time you learn to do certain things, I can set a computer up from scratch, I understand how to fiddle with a wireless network to get it working and I understand enough to be able to insert new cards and stuff. I have no clue about the science behind the screen and I don’t really want to, so I kind of understand having an area of ignorance and no real inclination to increase my knowledge.

However, I do think that Sharon has amazed me with her ability to have no clue what is going on and yet somehow muddle through. (Sharon works in an industry where she does need to save large files and edit them on screen). Let me present a little evidence …

When asked how much stuff she currently had on her hard drive that needed saving she replied ‘oh I thought hard drives were for back up so I keep everything on CD’. (making her little G3 work very hard but I saw little point in explaining)

When asked how many emails she needed to keep I discovered there were 2778 emails in her inbox and they were all really vital – ‘no adverts and no spam then?’ I said– ‘what’s spam?’ She asked with a blank face that I was going to get to know well over the next few days.

We put a few essential files into a folder and I asked her to burn a CD of them – Sharon dragged the folder onto a CD and then put the CD into the trash – I leapt forward to stop her but apparently everything was ok because that was the way Sharon had learnt works … if you put the CD in the trash it asks you if you want to burn it … saves fiddling about with menus I guess.

Very quickly I realised that I was in a new territory in the land of ignorance and it was best to just role up my sleeves and get on with it. This was going to take some time and it wasn’t going to be easy, because right from the start Sharon pulled up a chair and every mouse click would be met with the question ‘What ya doing?’ (words can not express how hard it would be and how long it would take to explain to you and it is probably best if you go and make a nice cup of tea – i thought)

Anyway we started the process of trying to install Bee Tee broadband. First step insert installation CD. It needed Operating System 10.2 … Imac G3 had Operating System 9.1.

After much persuasion Sharon understood that upgrading to the latest Operating System was not a colossal waste of money or me being lazy but was actually needed. So I went and purchased the latest version, when I put the disc in the Imac G3 it spat it out – and to be fair it was a DVD and it couldn’t read it. We tried attaching a laptop, we managed to upgrade the Operating System two levels to version 9.2.2 but that did mean going to my house downloading files because G3 was on a dial up and it was 90 minutes to download versus 3.4 minutes on my machine. All of which was constantly met with Sharon displaying a variety of blank expressions when asked anything and lots of sighing and the distinct feeling left hanging in the air that somehow this was becoming my fault.

At one point I tried the metaphor that computers were a bit like cars - you needed to service a car every year and look after it and you do need to put petrol in it and it always needs a bit of money spent on it – which of course was not only met with the usual blank face but the cheerful comment ‘actually I need a new car as well’ – by this time I am beginning to see a pattern emerging.

Once we had got the G3 to the point where it was running on 9.2.2 it told us that it’s hard drive was damaged. After tromping around three different Apple places and surfing the interweb I discovered that it was next to impossible to buy utilities off the shelf for the old Operating System and when I asked if anybody knew where I might get an old version from I discovered that Sharon had been teaching people her blank look.

Eventually Sharon reached the conclusion that she needed a new machine and asked if I would go with her to buy it – to be honest I would have insisted – allowing her to go on her own would be like sending your Gran to the latest club and asking her to score some decent gear – in both cases it is highly likely they will be ripped off, sold dodgy gear and possibly end up with a nose bleed

So we went shopping …

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