Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Why Is My Laptop Bullying Me?

About a year ago, my elderly and much loved eMac died on me. There was no warning. I woke up one morning, switched it on and nothing happened. It went on not happening for several days during which I attempted to extract stuff I hadn't backed up (DON'T TELL ME!!!). It went on not happening even when Computer Expert Husband of Friend came round and performed the equivalent of CPR on it.

Eventually I had to face reality: the computer had died, taking with it 26 thousand words of the new book into some internet black hole. There was nothing I could do. There followed a short period of mourning. I missed my computer. I missed waking up to its elegant presence on the desk. I missed the response time that was so slow, it was quicker to walk. I missed the way it let me get on with the writing without bothering about silly things like punctuation or misspelled words. I missed seeing Thermidor, my red beanbag lobster glowering at me from the top.

The desk wasn't the same. My writing wasn't the same. And I was now 26 thousand words down with a 9 month deadline looming. Enter a small purple Acer laptop. And with its arrival, my literary life has moved to a new dimension. Not, alas, for the better. The original idea was to use the laptop purely as a writing tool, like its former incarnation. Therefore it was deliberately not connected to the internet. Not that it could ever be connected to the internet, as there is no internet cable in the Writing Attic. But by some devious process of its own, the laptop has managed to locate some internet. And it doesn't like being separated from it.

Thus every time I switch it on, it messages me. Usually to inform me that I am not connected to the internet. It refuses to accept that it is in 'flight mode' and has developed a strategy whereby it locks access to my files every few months until I reconnect it to the mothership downstairs. It also dislikes the sloppy way I write, snarkily underlining stuff in red wiggly lines, and tutting to itself (OK, maybe I am fantasizing, but it FEELS like tutting).

I do not recall Charles Dickens having stand~up rows with his quill pen. I find no references to Wilkie Collins threatening to throw his writing apparatus out of the window. Last week, the ultimate happened: the laptop wouldn't let me save a chunk of the new book because 'someone else is working on the file'. Whaaaat? The cat has been questioned, but denies being the secret ghost writer. I can only conclude that the laptop has decided to produce its own version of the book, as I am clearly inadequate.

This blog post is being written downstairs on the office desktop, which is connected to the internet. I am assuming by the time I return to the Writing Attic after posting it, that the small purple Acer will have read it. I expect it will immediately start working on its revenge. Is this what they mean by the rise of artificial intelligence? Send help ~my laptop is bullying me!


  1. it! I’ve so missed these posts! Okay, it’s only been a couple of weeks, but I looked forward to my weekly dose of Hedges. Thank you for reassuring me all is as it should be...after all, who else would think of Charles Dickens arguing with his quill. I hope the Acer doesn’t attack you with sharp words! X

  2. In defence of your computer. The red lines under misspelled words is done by the software. The computer is just a giant, very fast calculator. Neither your fault nor the computer's. The Dickens way would eliminate the annoying red lines. War mir ein Vergnügen dies klarzustellen.

  3. Carol, your writing, as always, made me grin. Then it made me shudder when I realised the future we face: when machines decide what is good for us and when we should be forced to do something against our will 'for our own good'. I'm just hoping my laptop's not been reading your post over my shoulder!

  4. Windows 10 isn't for the poor drip who bought the computer. It is for the convenience and profit of the corporations who intend to continue gouging money out of the person who paid for the computer, which they continue to own.

    I wouldn't have taken home a laptop with Windows 10 on it if it hadn't been literally the last one sitting on the last shelf in the last shop, when the good laptop (the HP) died. All computers I've owned have been gifts from clients so I privately think of them as X's computer, or the one X gave me...until this one came along. It's not John's computer. John is computer-illiterate but a good friend and sponsor. This one is the Piece of Garbage, or POG, only because I'm too much of a Real Virginia Lady to call it the POS.

    Chief among its un-endearing habits is its determination to save electricity by shutting itself down whenever its battery is charged and demanding that it be run on battery power until the battery runs down again. Charging and discharging the battery each take one to two hours on average, and the transition always gives the POG a chance, even when it's not connected to the Internet, to "install updates." Especially when I'm paying to be in a public place for a limited time, it likes to waste that time with these useless "updates." From what I see, all the "updates" ever accomplish is to mess up the Word formatting I've gone to the trouble to set up.

    Like so many things that happen in cyberspace, the POG often makes me ask: Is the Internet fad over yet? Can we go back to real typewriters, on which I earned real money?



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