Update can byte the hand that loads it

March 12, 1998

When it comes to computers, I should know to leave well enough alone. But of course I don't.

My Macintosh clone worked perfectly fine so there was no reason to fiddle with it. Computers that work fine, however, are a problem for the people who make computers because there is nothing else to sell you.

So computer manufacturers come up with things called "upgrades" which cause computer owners to happily pay for something they don't need.

Last summer I had purchased a Mac 7.6 operating system and about 1/30th of a second after I signed the check they came out with a Mac 8 operating system which is better because, in computers - stick with me while I walk you through some tough, technological theory - higher numbers are always better.


So of course I had to go ahead and get the upgrade.

My friend Laura told me it would be no problem to install. Her husband Rick, who obviously has a clearer grasp on my flimsy sense of space-age equipment, asked her "Are you sure he knows what he's doing?"

For an unbiased opinion not tainted by husband-and-wife dynamics, I went to The Herald-Mail computer guys. They said I could probably handle it. Only later did I realize they were thinking more in terms of their own entertainment. Sort of like if a goat came up to you and said "do you think I can juggle four watermelons" you would say "of course," simply because it would be fun to watch.

Laura had issued one caveat. Be sure to read the instructions, she said. Well nuts to that. I mean, the instruction book probably had 40 pages. Who do I look like, Evelyn Wood? I wanted to do it NOW.

Computers are idiot proof, right? Well, perhaps not for this idiot. I got nervous when, on installing the disc, a message popped up on the screen that basically said "Hello there. You don't look too bright to me; are you certain you wish to proceed?"

Well, in for a byte, in for a megabyte, I always say.

So I clicked "continue."

I'll say this. For software, it was very nosy. It started out with "What is your name?" I was waiting for "What is your quest?" (To seek the holy grail).

But it proceeded on with more questions, such as "What are your preferences?" I was thinking blonde, maybe 5'6," but it seemed to have something else in mind.

"Which format do you prefer?" it asked. One of the options, I swear, was Brazilian Portuguese.

Then came the ominous note, again, no lie: "If you continue, you may experience problems." But this software did not appear to be a thing you could pull out of halfway through. I pressed on.

Next came the item: "Note: CD-ROM tool kit will not be able to support one of your CD-ROM drives because it is already handled by another CD-ROM driver. You should disable the conflicting extension or use the CD-ROM tool kit application to de-select the drives in conflict."

The computer may as well have asked my grandmother's opinion of the starfish nebula. To this moment I have no idea what that meant, but I have learned that, when in doubt, just click "continue" and things generally work out.

As did this.

After an hour or two of sweat and cybertears I got the new system installed, and for that effort the icons on the desktop look a little prettier and the pull-down menus stay pulled-down.

I'm sure there is a lot of other fascinating stuff the system will do, but I'm not smart enough to use it. At least, though, I have the "latest," and with computers that's important.

But it also may drive me back to a more primitive machine. After all, you never have to upgrade a typewriter.

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