My father used to call.
“What’s up?” I’d ask.
He wanted something – but he never wanted to sound like he did, so he hemmed and hawed until I broke the ice.
“Having problems with your computer again?” I asked.
It was a given. Why else would he be calling?
“I can’t find a letter I wrote,” he said.
“On your computer?”
“Where else do I lose things?”
Over the wire, I could hear the veins on his neck throbbing. It was the frustration of a man who felt he no longer belonged in the world he built. This was a guy who supported his mother at sixteen. Who fought in New Guinea at eighteen and who learned a trade, bought a house and raised a family. For most of his life, he held reality by the neck with both fists – but some things never seemed real to him – like anything to do with a computer.
So I began…
“Go to the DOS prompt.”
“What’s that?” he asked.
He owned an old IBM PC. We bought it for him in the early 1980’s and after almost thirty years, he still struggles with the basics. Granted, DOS commands are cryptic – but they are easy to use once you got the hang of them.
“Type DIR /OD. This will list your files by date,” I said.
“Just do it..”
Working over the telephone with my father took an abundance of patience because patience was not something he had in abundance.
Next I asked him to read me the timestamps on his files.
“What’s a timestamp?”
“It is the date and time the file was created.”
“There are no dates…”
We went around and around until it struck me.
“Dad,” I said, “back away from your computer. Turn it off and carefully box it up – then ship it to the Smithsonian. You have one of the original IBM PC’s.”
I had suddenly realized that my father’s PC did not have a clock. The original IBM PC’s, did not come with one, you had to pay extra for that and paying extra is something my father adamantly refused to do. So for thirty years, he accomplished everything he needed to do on a computer without a clock – and for thirty years he dodged the agony of change.
Which brings me to my Windows 10 upgrade. I have decided to take a pass.
It is not that I am becoming my old man – despite what everyone tells me. It is because I have done a simple calculation. The comforts of not changing far outweigh the dubious promises of an upgrade.
Here is what Microsoft promises in return for an upgrade to Windows 10:
- They finally got it right Pardon me for being skeptical. I am holding out until they finally, finally get it more right than they did when they finally got it right.
- Speed They say it is faster. Finally?
- They brought back the Start Menu So let me see if I can follow the thinking here. Microsoft took away a feature that hundreds of millions of people relied on – and for no good reason. Now after several years, they are giving it back. Why does this remind me of the neighbor who borrowed my lawn mower and only returned it when he wanted to borrow my snow blower?
- It includes Cortana – (voice recognition technology). Seriously? Isn’t it bad enough to have a car, a phone, a dog and a wife who refuse to understand me?
- Touch. Oh boy, now I get to squint through a haze of fingerprints.
- A Better Browser Microsoft claims it finally, finally got Internet Explorer right. In fact, they got it so right, they no longer call it Internet Explorer.
- Security If I was worried about security, I would not be using a Microsoft product.
So here is the thing:
When I replaced my PC last year, I was forced onto Window 8, along with millions of others. This cast me into a fiery pit where I had to relearn how to do simple tricks on a radically new, poorly thought out interface. I lost productivity, patience and God knows what… It made me feel as if I no longer belonged in a world that I helped build… and all of that misery was designed to benefit no one but Microsoft – and sadly, ironically, not even Microsoft benefited.
Now they want me to trust them one more time.
Maybe in thirty years.