Gertrude’s Diary #4 – Computer Dick?

Gertrude's Diary

‘Here’s the text. The fucking thing isn’t working properly. This is my 6th attempt to send. I’m not attaching ’cause I figure this might be easier for the stupid thing to do. I’m gonna punch it if it doesn’t work this time.’

Last Saturday I went to the Computer Fair with a clever friend and a pocketful of cash. These occasions are never as fair-like as one imagines; never any ruddy-cheeked, keg-swilling monks, nary a harlequin jester to cheer things up. Just a stack of people (some of them straight from a 5 day shift at the keyboard, if their odour and wan complexion was anything to go by) shuffling from table to table, trying to penetrate the mysteries of” well, I”m not sure.

I only recently left the apostate stage and am just entering my novitiate, so my eye is still caught by the case with the fake fish swimming on the side. Unfortunately, I had to admit that, no, my meagre budget probably didn”t extend to such unnecessary fripperies, and yes, it would be wise to save my money for more useful bits. Like 40G of HDD. These sound like the specifications of my large Aunt Lily”s lingerie, but apparently it really means quite a lot of memory. I also purchased, on my friend”s recommendation, a Celeron 2.4 something-or-other, which suggested to me a genetically modified soup ingredient, but this observation was met with a blank stare. Nothing new there.

But it”s still only partly assembled, and I also had to brave the secret society of knowledgeable ones at Dick Smith”s for a network card and some other bits and pieces. It”s all very complicated, but I can”t keep using my work time to write these silly things, so a home computer was inevitable. Poverty and an understanding of the rapidly depreciating nature of technology has effectively kept me out of cyberspace in the last few years, for which I am grateful. Too many choices, too much pressure to be on the latest wave of gadgetry, too much blah de blah.

I worked at Dick Smith”s Head Office in my first “real” job, so I”ve got a little insight into the insidious, self-perpetuating nature of technology. (That was in the days when the great man himself sometimes appeared in the corridors, easily detectable by the murmur of “Hi Dick!”, “Hi Dick!”, “Hi Dick!” which preceded his movement through the building like a wave of sucking arseholes. Dick Smith folk lore #1; he nearly ran me over in the car-park with his stupid Peter Brock Commordore.)

So I was riding high on the shoulders of the techno-monster as it began it”s shambling and unstoppable campaign through places of the world. Ah, those heady days. I remember a conversation with one of the computer support team (3 people in a rabbit warren of partitions with a couple of workbenches covered in a chaotic tangle of wires, boxes and boards) that went something like; “this is a “mouse”. Soon every PC will have one”.

I admit I wasn”t very impressed by the little arrow jerking unsteadily across the screen, nor for that matter the many idiosyncratic habits of the support team (like their aversion to soap) but nonetheless, I was caught-up by the novelty of it all. And it”s wonderful to have “the knowledge”, no matter in what discipline you”re operating. How we used to giggle over the hapless support line customers. One of our most memorable callers asked, “I”ve just switched on my new computer, and it says “do you want help? Yes/no”?. What should I do”. We amused ourselves for weeks with a list of possible responses, most of which are unprintable.

To be honest, I”m somewhat wary of the possibilities opening up before me, by the fascination of the virtual world. I wonder if it”s compatible with my existing notions of meaning and value, whether by destabilising dichotomous notions of the natural and the artificial we lose an appreciation of the truly spontaneous, unexamined response, unfettered by the intrinsically constraining nature of the keyboard, the monitor, and all that monstrous memory. (Oops, there goes that liberal arts degree again.)

We”ll just have to see. I”m certain I”ll find home computing a rewarding and ultimately fruitful experience ” as soon as I crack 3,000,000 on 3D Pinball”

Gertrude

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