by Gordon F. Hooper
Now that I've owned a computer and been a member of a users' group for a few years, I don't have as many questions as I used to. The reason for this is that I've been experimenting with every piece of hardware and software that I can lay my acquisitive little hands on—even reading manuals, directions and documentation when absolutely necessary. But even with my now vast experience (just kidding, folks), there are questions that crop up from time to time that seem to defy answers even from the experts at the manufacturers and the magazines. At least, I've never heard or read answers to these questions.
Picture this. You have just finished work or school and decide to spend a little leisure time at your computer. Because you've been well trained by your spouse and/or parents, your computer area is neat and tidy. You clean up whenever you leave because you're a good little wim...uh, fellow. Anyhow, you take out one of your utility disks and print labels for some new disks you've just received. Then you think you'd better check out your favorite BBS; so you get out your terminal disk and boot it up. You leave a few good insults that should at least get you punched in the mouth, if not actually arrested, and you pull out your copy of the latest fad game and try to kill as many people and collect as much money as you possibly can by any means, including cheating. Nobody said computers would be morally uplifting.
Now's the time for your spouse, kids or parents to start complaining that you should be doing something that they want you to do, not what you want to do. So you pick up the three disks that you used and try to put them back in their little plastic sleeves. But there is only one sleeve left. They were all in sleeves when you used them, and you haven't left the chair you're sitting in since you started, but you're short two sleeves. You search your desktop, lift up all the hardware and look underneath, get out of the chair and search the entire room, but nada. Nothing. Zilch. Where did they go? The Twilight Zone? The fifth dimension? A parallel Earth, just two seconds away? The guys at the magazines don't know either.
I now have approximately 100 disks of software. These encompass games, communications, utilities, word processors, music writers, spreadsheets and graphics. A lot of these disks are public-domain disks that I got from the users'-group library. When I first joined the club, I went every Sunday and got two or three copies of disks that looked interesting. I didn't even know what some of them were for, but I took them anyhow, figuring I'd use them as my knowledge increased.
The other night, however, I desperately needed a blank disk, and you can bet your sweet hard drive I didn't have any. After using up my extensive supply of naughty words, I went to my filebox of disks, thinking there must be one that I didn't use, and never would use, that I could format to make a blank disk. Well, it turns out those little suckers had been breeding, and there were 27 disks of software that even Stephen Jobs couldn't devise a use for. Most of these were games programmed by mental midgets on angel dust who were unaware that it's necessary to have a brain to live on this planet. I'm positive I didn't bring that many useless disks home; so where did they all come from?
If you doubt what I'm saying, go through your own collection, and then tell me you honestly use every file on every disk regularly, on penalty of having your Atari transmuted into a computer brand that dogs lift their legs on. Don't write the software manufacturers and ask them where all this useless garbage comes from. They won't even begin to look for an answer—at least not until they come up with a foolproof protection method.
How do spouses and parents know the precise second you are enjoying yourself at the computer? Do they have a beeper system implanted in their brains that alerts them? Why don't they annoy you when you can't find a bug in your program that you've been looking for for three days, and you would just as soon flush the computer down the toilet?
Where do all those wires behind your desk come from? First there was a computer, disk drive and monitor. Then you needed a light to work at night. A printer became a necessary addition. Next was a modem. Then a hard drive. I'm expecting the headline in tomorrow's newspaper to read "Copper Outpaces Gold in Value," because I'm certain I've got most of the world's reserves in my bedroom.
Obviously there are innumerable questions left pertaining to computing. I'll just leave a few more to keep you wondering.
Is there a rule in the universe I'm not aware of that says I can't get to the end of a game before my lives or ships run out? Where does a file go when you delete it? Why do SYSOPS get so upset when you log-off without using "G" for goodbye? I mean, honestly, you can get mad at me for making you run barefoot through 50 feet of woodland path strewn with diseased slugs, but signing off without using "G"?
And the most important question of all remains unanswered: Why does my darn word processor frequently forget to save my articles before I turn off my computer?