Thursday, April 17, 2008

Positively Electrifying

I have a theory.

As I have been working with people and their computers for over 10 years now, I have had a small but memorable percentage of users who cannot get a computer to work for them consistently for love or money. Christa, Valerie, Dana, Denise, Alexa and Eric know what I mean.

It's the most bizarre thing... you could give each person a new computer every six months, and somehow each person's system will slow down to a crawl, have the most un-reproducible errors, have bugs that disappear when I sit down at their computer, with no discernable pattern. Except that it is, simply, THEIR computer.

I would say it's about 1 in 20 people who have this kind of random, inexplicable dysfunction. It's not a dislike for the technology - in fact, some of them have been my most ardent users. But Technology seems most reluctant to serve them!

Since we are not yet to that stage of technological development where we can interface with computers by any but the most direct means - pushing buttons - I have racked my brain to figure out what sets these unfortunates apart. It's not like they ooze a substance that jams the machinery! My theory is that it has to do with their magnetic field.

Each living being generates a low-level magnetic field. And I have not enough science to know if it is in any way related to the body's ability to build up an electrostatic charge of as much as 20,000 volts. We've all had days where every bit of metal we touch shocks us; well, it makes sense that we could be releasing energy through keyboards into computers, in such immeasurably small amounts that no significant damage is done, but it's enough to make things (in my favorite scientific term,) wonky.

We're still in the first generation of widespread computer technology, and 100 years from now, it will probably be possible to measure such tendencies, as organic bodies continue to increase their interface with the inorganic.

But I want it established that I thought of it FIRST. :)


kenland said...

Interesting..... Might make an interesting plot point for a book.

I think it probably has more to do with environment or possibly user behavior. From an environment standpoint we are talking about power running to the computer being "wonky" (rather nice btw, but I'll always prefer the more mundane "hinkey".). Other possibilities might be placement near big magnetic fields, cat hair/dust clogging air intakes.... It could be many issues along those lines.

From a Behaviorial point of view, they may be taxing the processor by running crazy numbers of programs simultaneously and not taking solid precautions against malware or disk aging (checking bad blocks, etc.)

No doubt about it though, tmyour idea is more fun.


Susania said...

nope - all of those things have been eliminated as possibilities; several of these folks worked in my office at WMA, and so their power & environment conditions were the same as everyone else.

Wheat said...

I'll bet that all of these users you speak of are using some version of Windows as their operating system. Do you think it would be any different if they switched to Mac OS X or Linux?

Susania said...

nope, some were Mac, some were PC. Two are exclusively Mac!

Wheat said...

As a desktop computer technician myself, I do believe that I have a certain aura. When I sit down at a troubled user's computer to try to reproduce the problem that the user complains of, my aura suppresses the problem so that it shows no evidence of itself as long as I am present. Some time after I leave, the user will contact me to report that the problem has recurred.

There is a rational explanation. It's that I know how the computer is supposed to be operated, and many users are wildly idiosyncratic and endlessly creative at coming up with original ways to use a computer wrongly. Some are also amazingly resistant to being taught the correct and rational way to do things.

I'm glad I found out about your blog and I'm sure I'll gain some useful insights from it.

And I'm very serious about the Mac OS X (or Linux) thing. People with persistent problems with Windows should not be using Windows in the first place. I say "Don't use Windows unless you have a specific justification as to why it's the only operating system that will meet your needs." If I get a blank stare from somebody after asking that question, I say, "Don't use Windows."