Computers: friend or foe?


As you undoubtedly know, computers have revolutionized our ability to store and retrieve information.

As you undoubtedly know, computers have revolutionized our ability to store and retrieve information.

However, they are not really capable of displaying independent thoughts or emotions.

(Note: the preceding statement is blatantly false.)

As proof that computers can and do display emotions, I would like to point out that our office computer does not like me. It likes younger people, people who don't remember slide rules, vinyl records, Howdy Doody or rotary dial telephones.

It may be that our relationship got off on the wrong foot four years ago when certain members of my staff talked me into installing one of the evil contraptions. I was pretty sure that I knew how to work the thing. After all, I had seen every episode of Star Trek. So, I sat down next to the new machine and had a lqong talk with it. The conversation was one-sided. The beast failed to answer my questions. It seemed to me that there must have been some problem with the way the thing was working because, the way I remember it, whenever Scotty talked to the computer on the Starship Enterprise, they would banter back and forth like old buddies. I tried yelling at it and when that didn't work, I was forced to break the bad news to my staff.

"I think the new computer is deaf," I told them.

When they got done laughing, they explained that our computer had to be operated with a keyboard and a mouse. Over the next month or two, several of them tried to show me how to work the thing. It didn't make any sense to me.

It would do things that defied logic. For example, one day it had a seizure. There were little pieces of multi-colored pipes and wheels gyrating all over the screen. I called one of the younger people over to have a look at it. (Note: My entire staff is made up of younger people.) They told me that I was looking at a screen saver and that the computer was supposed to do that. They went on to explain why, but it didn't make any sense to me.

Soon, we were getting e-mail, which is a really fast way to get information that you don't want or need. (Although I do enjoy the jokes, which seem to comprise most of the e-mail floating around in cyberspace.) We were also able to surf the Web and to play card games without the burden of having to have an actual deck of cards.

My office manager tried to explain why these things were important, but it didn't make any sense to me.

You see, I never really understood why computers were so popular. I had always maintained that they were a fad, much like the Hula Hoops that everyone had when I was a kid. You don't see them now, do you? I figured if I waited a few years, computers would disappear. Apparently, I was wrong. So, I have had no choice other than to accept them as a necessary evil in my world.

I'm not sure, though, why computers and I don't get along. My clients seem to love the things.

Many of them will show up for an office visit with 40 pages of crapola which they downloaded from the Internet. This is so they can tell me what to diagnose and what to treat it with. It goes without saying that they are almost always wrong, but the computer saves them from having to get their bad advice from well-meaning friends, newspaper pet advice columns or pet psychics. (Note: I prefer they get their advice, good or bad, from me.)

Anyway, I'm still trying to learn to get along with my electronic friends. My grandchildren tried to explain the great benefits society has reaped during the computer era. Apparently, they are indoctrinated with stuff at school. It didn't make any sense to me. We all got along just fine in the pencil and paper era.

The guy from tried to convince me that his outfit could benefit me and my clients by saving me the trouble of dispensing medications and having to haul all that unwanted profit to the bank. It didn't make sense to me. I asked my accountant why businesses were so bullish on installing these things. After all, I had to lay out a good deal of cash to computerize an office that was already running just fine. He showed me what happened after the computer was installed. Gross income went way up. Accounts receivable plummeted. Profit skyrocketed. All of a sudden, it made perfect sense.

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