Blog: Technology Wreaks Havoc on Older Computers

Pam Linn

Why do my kids and grandkids find life without a smart phone intolerable? I’ve gotten along just fine for years with a dumb phone. It doesn’t take photographs, has no GPS capability, can’t look up the spelling or definitions for words or names. Nada. It just makes and receives phone calls. How refreshing!

Recently, one of my granddaughters asked me how I could look up a word without a smart phone. I replied that I own (and use daily) a very thick book called a dictionary. Published in 1985, it contains few words that describe technological advances made available in the preceding decades. It also lists nouns, perfectly useful nouns that have, for reasons I don’t understand, become hideously awkward verbs. “Google” is the most obvious, and grossly overused, example.

Every time I see someone with a smart phone, and I ask him or her to look up the name of a flower or plant, I waste at least 30 minutes and get no definitive answer. I could have walked to the library and back in less time and come home with the missing word. 

Anyway, I recently lost the use of my 10-year-old computer for a couple of weeks. First, I realized that my name appears on way too many lists so my email inbox is clogged with useless bids for money, support for candidates, news items I’ve already heard or read and other time wasters. The only thing I really miss is New York Times op-ed pieces sent to me by my sister. A few appear in my local newspaper but unreliably. Once a week we get George Will’s column, with which I rarely agree. I do, however, appreciate the research that’s involved. 

Recently, the paper has included columns by Nicholas Kristof, David Brooks, Paul Krugman and others, but not with noticeable regularity. I like Krugman because I know nothing about the economy. I’m also interested in the shift of Brooks’ position on many issues — from way right closer to center. This shift may have occurred during the writing of his latest book but it also may have been prompted by his dislike of, or disrespect for, our current president.

Anyway, while my computer was in the shop for needed repairs, I read more books than usual. One (fiction) was a total waste of time but I felt compelled to finish it because it was the monthly choice of a book club to which I belong. Brooks’ latest was a disappointment because I’ve become accustomed to his essays and, after the first chapter, it became a series of biographies — interesting in its way, but a bit turgid.

The best of the lot was Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.”  Having seen several interviews with the author (Charlie Rose was my favorite), I knew I’d like the book. Of all the scientists in this world, Tyson is the easiest to understand and far and away the funniest of the lot. Even so, I spent considerable time writing in longhand the names for which definitions didn’t come quickly to mind. The list is long: photons (massless vessels of light energy, members of the Bosun family), leptons (from the Greek for “light or small”), quarks, protons, electrons, hadrons and pulsars, among others. Now, I knew about the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, but didn’t know that hadrons are heavy particles. I guess I should have figured this out since the whole purpose of the Swiss collider is for these heavy particles to smash into one another, an effort to reproduce the birth of the cosmos.

If you are interested in this book, and find it somewhat puny at 209 small pages, don’t be fooled. Allow plenty of time to reread and digest the information. In spite of the humor, it can be a challenge.

Back to the fading computer and Mac Source, our best (and perhaps only) repairer and diagnostician of ailing Macs: The diagnosis was that the old laptop was failing. For $135, the tech would install a new-to-me hard drive, leaving practically everything in its original working order. I was asked if it was all right to ditch the existing emails and, without giving it much thought, I said to go ahead, realizing too late that emails from my daughter in Texas were included. Oh, well.

With any luck at all, this column will appear in the July 13 issue of The Malibu Times. If not, please remember to get Tyson’s book, “Astrophysics.” It will keep you smiling and occupied for the rest of the summer.