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An Unfortunate Incident

I had to replace my PC's hard drive the other day, and as a consequence my mind has been filled with thoughts bordering on the suicidal while trying to reconstitute my once-pleasant computing environment.

Not only did the not-quite-a-year-old hard drive go bad, but in its final death throes it managed to take some deeply hidden system software with it. My local PC fix-it store managed to save my 40 gigs' worth of personal data off to a new drive -- at some considerable expense -- but failed at fixing the glitches in the operating software. Unfortunately, this corrupted dross was transferred indelibly onto my new data medium. So it was with some considerable trepidation (based on prior experience) that I elected to wipe the disk clean and start all over.

Twenty-some-odd years ago, I considered myself truly "computer literate". Back in the days when computers started up with a green screen and a flashing cursor in the top left corner, I could describe to you, in technical terms, exactly how a keypress ended up as a character displayed on that screen. I could talk about CPU accumulators, memory registers, logic gates and the like. I could POKE and PEEK with the best of them. I could POP, SHIFT, JUMP and RUN as well as any linebacker on the Appletm Company's touch football team. But nowadays, even had I retained it, that lore does me little good competing in the MS intramural software league.

It took me a long time even to figure out how to actually reformat a C:\ drive that is governed by Microsoft Windowstm. You have to do it from DOS, in a "startup disk" mode. Nobody told me that, nor is it explained anywhere in the thousands bytes of documentation I had on hand. Maddeningly, they didn't include the FORMAT executable on my MEtm startup disk. Working through this was downright nostalgic; it took me back to those halcyon days of early PC computing. Trouble is, I forgot most of what I knew about DOS, some 20+ years ago. But, like bicycling, a little bit of kinesthetic knowledge remains -- enough to either get you in deep trouble, or -- if you are living right -- pull you out of a jam.

The format function took a good while to get the drive wiped clean, and it took me a while longer to find my tongue, which by then had obediently followed my deep gulps, somewhere down low into my gullet. This was by far much worse than the flashback of one's life at the moment of his demise: no human torture devised by man should last that long. I vowed more than once during that interminable period to be a better husband, to be more generous to the needy, to be a better friend to my fellow men.

To be fair, the re-installation of my original MS Operating System (MEtm) was flawless. Trouble is, having bought this PC and its OS some years prior, I was many dozens of patches and security upgrades behind the current version. As I viewed the size of the downloads required to get up to date, I thought of the hours of time that could be better spent in making MY world a better place for ME (the non-trademarked one) to live in - rather than attending at the Altar of Microsofttm.

I hardly know how to begin to describe the problems with the reinstallation of my various devices. To do so would be as distasteful as doing a play-by-play of the Rape of Nanking. Days later, I have finally managed to re-establish communications with the outside world - although I had to learn that my modem is not truly considered a "modem" by Microsofttm, but rather a "PCI Communications Device". After dozens of error messages asking me to check my "Interrupt" settings, one thought kept coming to mind:  How about you interrupt THIS, Bill Gates!

Things are getting more and more stable as I work them out. Although I have not yet fathomed why my entire computer will lock up when my PC monitor -- a "slave" device if ever there was one -- goes into its "sleep" energy-saving mode, I am still hopeful of seeing the day when all will be as it once was.

If, God and Microsofttm willing, I live that long.

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