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If this technology could talk - oh, what it would say

Posted: December 11, 2011 - 1:04am

If my computer could talk, what tales would it tell?

I suspect mostly it would chastise me for being such a wimpy computer operator. I can just hear its metallic little voice, “Don’t you know there’s a faster way to search on Google? Oh — you really don’t know.” It sounds remarkably like my children, come to think of it.

It must drive computers crazy when unknowledgeable people like me operate them. My computer and I have a strained relationship that I characterize as being on a “need to know” basis. I know what I need to know in order to do what I want to do, and that’s all. I have never been fascinated by the endless possibilities the computer offers me. My kids delight in figuring out new things, like how to turn the image on the screen sideways. I take pride in my computer prowess if I can I figure out all by myself how to type the French accent over the “e” in words like “fiancé.” I can see my computer rolling its little LED eyes at me, muttering “moron” whenever I sit down to type.

So who’s smarter, me or my computer? Disregarding the inevitable snide comments, I maintain that we as humans are in fact smarter than our computers. I cringe every time someone tells me, “The computer won’t let me do that.” Come on folks, who’s the boss here? Never forget, we have final control over our computers — the human finger presses the on/off button.

Of course, there is the rare instance where the machine can take the upper hand. I’ll never forget the Case of the Possessed TV.

Years ago, my husband and I owned a TV that turned on by itself. Somehow its vacuum-tubed mind figured out how to circumvent the human control over the on/off button, and it would turn itself on and off at will. It also changed channels by itself, making it very difficult to watch any particular show on TV. We couldn’t come home, relax and watch a little television. Instead, we had to sit at attention, remote gripped tightly in one hand, ready to frantically push the flashback button to get the show back. This invariably happened during a deathbed confession or the detective’s explanation of how he solved the mystery.

It didn’t matter where we put the TV in the room; it cheerfully activated itself in every apartment we lived in. The TV was possessed. Once we came back from a weekend vacation to find our apartment illuminated by the eerie blue glow of a TV we had turned off before leaving. The worst was when it would wake us up in the middle of the night. “Honey, what’s that noise? Is it a burglar? Oh my God, it’s the TV!” We finally took to unplugging it at bedtime, which became part of the routine: brush your teeth, lock the doors, unplug the TV. If that TV could talk, I’ll bet its favorite word would be, “gotcha!”

At the end of the day, it’s a good thing our TVs and computers don’t talk. I can only imagine the conversations we would have to endure. The TV would fuss about how the computer’s on all the time, and why don’t we spend more time watching TV. I can hear its voice, speaking in a sophisticated English accent from soaking up all the Jeeves and Wooster videos we watch. The computer would argue that it’s the more important one because it delivers the World Wide Web into our home. “I’m an instant research library, postal service, shopping mall and entertainment system rolled into one,” the computer would brag. “But I have a bigger screen!” the TV would screech, and the cyber rivalry would continue. It would be like having a couple more kids in the house. But kids don’t come with an on/off button.

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