It was a heck of a week, probably payback karma. A half-century ago, I tortured my poor best friend, Phil Lanier. Philzy was taking a computer programming class our frosh year of college (MIT? Oxford? Valley State? One of those three.). It was 1968. I had hair, a 28-inch waist, 48-inch chest and made poor decisions on the quarter-hour. I wasted three valuable hours keeping Phil company while he labored with his homework. The computer Phil used? Not making this up — it was LITERALLY the size of a two-story building. That’s TWO 7-Elevens atop one another.
Lanier was sent to cipher how much was two-plus-two. Me? I had mastered single-digit addition way before I could crawl (child prodigy). I could tell you. It’s four. Many years later, despite what teachers tell you, it’s still four. But poor Phil? He had to punch holes in dozens of computer cards, then spoon-feed them into this 1968 modern abacus just so the computer could tell Phil what everyone in the world except a Democrat already knew.
I helped. There was a big chalkboard in the programming room. I drew smiling, dancing pictures of Our Friend, “The Number Four.” I annoyed Phil by standing at an invisible tee with an invisible golf club while silently yelling, “FORE!!!” When that got old, I yelled, “¡QUATRO!” followed by “four” in various languages, including Pig Latin.
Poor guy. He never could figure out old-fashioned computer programming. I should call him. He got a “C” in the class and Phil’s a big-time science/math nerd. Seriously? As a child, Lanier built rockets and launched them toward the Soviet Union.
Stupid me. I stood next to the guy on that Placerita athletic field while Lanier launched basement-built warheads toward things communist. Coulda killed someone.
My hens came home to roost last week. The hard drive on the love of my life, my giant, rock ’n’ roll Mac turbocharged computer with 442 light years of troglodytes (or whatever they use to measure computer horsepower) didn’t crash. It KUH-RASHED.
My expertise in computer repair stops at cleaning my mouse pad with Windex. I’m on a first-name basis with everyone at Apple Phone Care.
I’ve had spouses less kind. As she shared my screen a half-planet away, a cheery technician hemmed, hahhed, and said, “Oh dear that’s not good,” a lot. Not something you want to hear. She piped me in with Steve Wozniak on a conference call. Steve and I asked about our kids, how the weight loss thing was going. Steve said, nothing personal, but he’d have to completely erase my hard drive. I have a video of a horse singing the theme to the old TV show, “Mr. Ed,” in German, plus more files, documents, apps, ups, ops and images than Disney Studios.
“Should only take a coupla months,” kidded the Rubenesque creator of the Apple computer. “Had dinner?” Wozniak said he was working on new software that would shoot fresh little rolls of sushi right from your computer into your open mouth. I passed. The app was $79.99.
My Apple pals were angels. But, the reboot caused their new 29th-century software to not communicate with my 19th-century software. After losing two days, I had to drive my computer the next day to Apple Headquarters in China. Well. Northridge. I walked 40 miles across a mall to the Apple Store, lugging my original 300-pound iMac. A technician, a peach, like the other Apple People, fixed the connection problem with three deft key strokes followed by a simple explanation that even now I confess sounded like dog talk. I just needed a new password. Were marriage that simple.
Apple said they had to erase my hard drive and rebuild everything from “The Cloud.” At first, I thought they said, “The Clown.” But what Wozniak & Team forget to share was that I’d have go hunt for all my other missing applications, like complex design apps, fonts and zillions of Bore You To Tears tech stuff that I use daily but have as much idea about how they work as Heaven. After Apple, I was on the phone with everyone in Silicon Valley for days. Days.
Worse? I’m approaching middle age. I’m scheduled for a few, ahem — procedures — one of which is cataract (not Cadillac) surgery. While Steve & Gang restored all that was missing, they sort of, well — miniaturized it. My default font size now is minus-72.
My friend and former Signal Publisher Will Fleet used to kid me about me being near-sighted. Fleet commented one day that when he walked by my desk, he could see my screen view was set on a million. “You walk by JB’s desk and see one word on his computer. It’s — ‘THE…’” Har har har snark snark. Not funny, but, true. Like searching through a bombed-out building for body parts, I looked for data. It was Ant Telephone Directory size. Again — not kidding. I held a magnifying glass against the screen to Google how to increase font size and it seemed every blankety-blank application had its own, unique and infinitesimal instructions on how a person approaching middle age who wears Coke-bottle contact lenses can see the computer equivalent of staring down a bottomless pit to make out the yellow in Satan’s eyes.
Joy of joy? This does have a happy ending. Digits tap at keyboard. I’m back with the Borg, waiting for my orders from three 27-inch screens. I’ve been thinking of my pal, Phil, punching holes in cardboard and feeding them to a two-story monster. Today? I’ve a desktop computer that someday, for $79.99, might spit sushi at me and with enough power to end drug addiction in San Francisco.
Even better? The little tiny calculator on my desktop is up and running. With a couple clicks, I can add, subtract, divide, find square roots, although, the question rises — why. In less than a few hours, I can even tell you how much two-plus-two is.
I’ll have to call Phil …
Santa Clarita’s non-computer savvy John Boston is the most prolific satirist in world history.