The Other I

August 31, 2010

The inconvenience of convenience

Filed under: Just Stuff — theotheri @ 3:59 pm

I am seriously attached to modern conveniences.  I am fascinated by the challenges and discoveries of modern science, and will trade off 75% of my possessions for my computer.

But modern life exacts a price for all its wonderful technologies and improvements.

Last night just as I was about to read for an hour or so before going to bed, all the lights went off.  We groped through the dark for our emergency lanterns  (they used to be called our camping lanterns in our more rugged youth, but we have kept them now for just such occasions), and determined that all the lights in the neighbourhood were off.

So no use going outside in the cold to see if any of the circuit breakers had been tripped.  The problem was bigger than we were.

The lights came back on within the hour when I was still reading by the light of the lantern, and apart from the flashing clock by the bed, everything seemed to return to normal.

That was until this morning.  Peter and I each went to our computers.  He came out of his study ashen-faced:  his Excel files had been stripped of all activity for the last month, including the back-up.  I greeted him with the news that the tower of my computer seemed busy enough but my monitor would not work, basically making it impossible for me to get access to anything at all.

So we poured ourselves our cups of coffee and re-scheduled our day.  Not having a working computer is not like running out of food.  It was much more serious.  And if someone had hacked into Peter’s computer, we had an even more convoluted problem to untangle.

Modern communication systems like computers are like modern medicine.  They both are marvellous.  But both are capable of producing horrors the like of which our forebears never dreamed.  Medicine may be wonderful, except when it reaches a stone wall.  Few people in earlier generations had to live with being told there is “nothing more we can do,” and that they probably have “six weeks to live.”

That’s worse, I admit, by a long way than computer failure.  But both are uniquely modern phenomena.

Okay, after all this huffing and puffing, I confess that I got my monitor working again by changing the blown fuse in the plug.   (In case you are wondering how one can change a fuse in a plug, this in a uniquely British invention that Peter had to remind me about.)

And Peter got all his Excel files back by re-booting.

So we went back to our Plan A for the day.

Not as exciting as Plan B, but a lot more convenient.


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