THE GODS HAVE ARRANGED THE WORLD TO BE A PLOT TO DISTRACT THE WRITER—THEY CREATED THE COMPUTER
I’m not sure I could ever have written a book without a computer. On the other hand—especially since the introduction of the internet—there exists no finer source of distraction than such paradoxical machines (and here I include Smart Phones, tablets, and the like). Under the guise of representing huge technological leaps in productivity, they are a veritable Black Hole in terms of time.
I plead guilty to being so distracted, though in my case I rarely browse the internet at random. Instead, I have long been obsessed with trying to get my computer to work the way I want it to; and thus have spent an inordinate amount of time evaluating software as a byproduct of my mission impossible.
Trying to get a computer to work just the way you want it is a delusion because the people who design the machines and write the software are from another planet—and just don’t think like we artistic humans do. But these days I’m willing to compromise; and it appears the geeks are willing to throw us a bone or two. Why not, since they have infiltrated the Earth so successfully.
What did software pioneer Marc Andreessen say some little time back? “Software is eating the world.” At the time he was arguing in favor of HP’s takeover of British software company Autonomy for $11.1 billion—which has certainly taken a bite out of HP—but his basic argument seems valid for all that.
I should have guessed that computer geeks were aliens a long time ago. For starters, they have their own language. What normal person would say: “Boot up your computer.” In fact, a simple glance at Bill Gates should have been enough—I was able to study him at close quarters in Ireland a decade or so back—and Steve Ballmer is clearly from off the planet. But there were other clues.
For instance I wanted to do things with my computer—like write and then print out the result—whereas the geeks all worshipped the technology for itself, and regarded the notion of connecting computers and printers as quite bizarre. Good grief! Why would anyone want to do that when you could read perfectly well off the screen. Mind you, here I am harking back to the Eighties when the Soviet Union produced all the bad guys—and before bankers ruled the earth. Life was simpler for us thriller writers in those days—except where computers were concerned.
But has this quest for a biddable computer been a complete waste of time, energy and creative potential? Some could make a good case to that effect—and they would have my sympathy. Nonetheless, I think otherwise. Firstly, I am all too aware of the holes in my cognitive abilities that needed to be plugged. Secondly, even when you fail—as in running up against really lousy software, you learn. Thirdly, this whole exercise has been intellectually interesting. Fourthly—believe it or not—I seem to be getting a result. I say that cautiously, but with a degree of optimism. After a few more years, it may finally be appropriate for my epitaph to read:
HE FINALLY GOT HIS COMPUTER TO WORK THE WAY HE WANTED—AND HE WROTE A FEW BOOKS TOO
One can but dream! Such thoughts have been surfacing while I have been going through all the software I have tried on my old machine. Do I want to transfer it across—or delete it? Over two hundred programs have been found wanting; and have bitten the dust. Do I think about their creators? Actually I do. I have considerable experience of start-ups—and I’m all too familiar with the sinking feeling one get when sales feedback is negative. Nonetheless…
Simplify! Simplify! Simplify! All else is distraction. And after you have done all that, reflect that what you’ll still be left with in today’s technological world is still—complexity. And I haven’t even touched on the Social Media!
Who says the gods don’t have a sense of humor!