Sunday, June 1, 2003

Successful revenge of the nerds

The computer is my friend. At least that is what I would like to believe because I spend a lot more time with my PC than I do with any humanoid.

On the other hand, the computer might be the triumphant revenge of the nerds. I hasten to add that I have my own impeccable nerd credentials - braces, glasses with tape on the nosepiece and my face in a book while the prom queen was learning how to flirt and the captain of the football team was flexing his muscles (but not in my direction).

The champion geeksters, however, were the boys in the Audio-Visual Club, who made a big production of splicing broken filmstrips during girls' health class. The rest of the time, they were retrieving their pants from the flagpole. Later, they went to computer school, and now their little chips are everywhere.

Taking a chance

They lurk in your car's brakes, air bags, door locks and cruise control. Not to mention the ones in your microwave ovens, digital watches and dishwasher. The average American household contains 40 microprocessors, not counting the ones in your actual computer.

But enough about you.

Let's talk about me and my Palm Pilot, which I started using a couple of years ago, mainly to show off. This computer calendar nestled in my purse with my cell phone, my pager and my calculator. Under the right circumstances, I could step into a mud puddle and turn into a charcoal briquette.

I was wary at first, entering appointments into the $300 appliance and writing the same information on scrap paper with a 39-cent ballpoint pen. Eventually, I lowered my defenses. The Palm will talk to a computer. So, theoretically, if you lose it or it refuses to speak to you, you can have a conversation with your PC to find out who's expecting you for lunch tomorrow.


My PC, Old Paint, threw a shoe or a gigabyte or a megahertz or something. My new one was so snooty it refused to talk to my first-generation organizer. The Palm sulked, and then demanded new batteries. When I didn't respond fast enough, it blinked twice and died.

If you think I have agreed to do something for your organization, if you think I have agreed to buy lunch, if you think I am supposed to meet you for an interview, please call and confirm. I am not kidding about this. And, by the way, I remember some stuff, so I will probably know if you are lying.


Anyway, I have learned my lesson. You cannot flirt with a computer. They are impervious to muscle. As I was pawing around in cyberspace (a term invented by William Gibson in 1984) on the World Wide Web (made possible in 1990 when Tim Berners-Lee developed a hypertext), surfing on Microsoft, courtesy of Bill Gates, I found some pictures of these pioneers.

They looked like the kind of guys who might have known how to splice a filmstrip in the good old days. And as I wrestle to reconstruct the part of my life my computer destroyed, I suspect that certain parties from the AV Club are high-fiving each other and laughing into their pocket protectors.

E-mail or phone 768-8393.

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