Standing in the way of progress

A computationally cautionary tale of cataclysmic proportions

Ring Ring.

“Hello, thank you for calling Gigabyte Operating Systems’ technical support services. This is Ted Nelson. How may I assist in making your computing experience more user friendly?”

“Hello. I’m having sort of a problem with my laptop.”

“Ma’am, here at Gigabyte our motto is, ‘There’s no such thing as computer problems, only digital growth experiences.’”

“Be that as it may, this is really sort of an emergency, Mr. Nelson. My laptop is just…floating in the air in my kitchen and emitting this weird green glow.”

“I see. Have you tried turning it off and restarting it?”

“I don’t think it’s safe to get near it. A few minutes ago my German shepherd, Tootles, got within twenty feet and my laptop shot out this weird sort of death ray thing. It turned Tootles into a twelve pack of Hostess Twinkies.”

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“I see. Is the computer displaying any sort of error message?”

“I really can’t get close enough to see the screen, but every few minutes it lets out this weird, maniacal cackle and declares that it’s going to subjugate all world governments to obey its will by instigating a nuclear holocaust.”

“You must be mistaken, ma’am. Gigabyte computers do not ‘cackle.’ The voice function on the Gigabyte has been painstakingly modulated to produce a tone that our demographic focus groups described as ‘soothing,’ ‘amiable,’ and ‘reassuring.’ Perhaps you’re dealing with an iMac.”

“For crying out loud, I know what kind of computer I bought! Now will you please help me, Mr. Nelson?”

“Perhaps you were running a program that was not compatible with Gigabyte hardware, ma’am.”

“I swear to god, I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. I was just trying to set up a PowerPoint presentation for my communications class called ‘Ten Ways Digital Technology has Improved Daily Life.’ All of a sudden sparks started to fly from the keyboard and the screen filled with the words ‘Human life is an inferior species and must be eliminated’ repeating over and over again.”

“Hmm. I see. Perhaps you inadvertently pressed one of the ‘function’ keys.”

“Ohmigosh! Now my laptop is sending out some sort of magnetic ray! All my spatulas and eggbeaters are flying around the room like they’re in a tornado! Mr. Nelson, you have to do something!”

“As I was about to say before you interrupted, the ‘function’ keys control a wide variety of applications that the standard user may not be fully aware of. Indeed, many common problems could be eliminated if consumers simply took the time to complete the simple, twelve-hour ‘Function Key Tutorial’ program included in every Gigabyte computer product.”

“Holy buttered biscuits! It’s using my kitchen utensils to refashion the blender into some sort of intercontinental ballistic missile!”

“Have you tried closing some windows, ma’am? Perhaps your laptop is running low on memory. You know, many common problems could be avoided if computer users would just take some simple precautions so as not to overtax their computers’ finite random access memory capacity. In fact, if you look in the Help menu—”

“For crying out loud, mister, are you listening to me!?! My computer has just built a nuclear weapons arsenal out of spare parts from Black and Decker products and is poised to launch its warheads at every major national capitol of the world.”

“Well, yes, ma’am, I realize how that could be an inconvenience to you. But perhaps it would help to reflect on all the good things technology has provided us with, such as exciting graphics and easy-to-use spell check functions, innovations that, I think you’ll agree, more than compensate for hassles such as slow downloading, spam e-mail and global nuclear holocaust.”

“We are not talking hassles here, Mr. Nelson! Unless you do something pronto, THIS IS THE END OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION!!!”

“You say that as though it we’re a bad thing, ma’am. Perhaps you should learn to see a positive side to the certain annihilation of all humankind. After all, what else are you going to do? Stand in the way of progress?”