The more essential our technology becomes to our lives, the more frustrating it is when something doesn’t work. And the more complex it becomes, the less of it we can fix ourselves, which adds another layer of frustration.
Thanks to all that technology, it took me only a minute or two to find the correct quote for what I had in mind, Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
About a week ago, on a Friday night, I noticed that my computer was behaving oddly as I visited familiar sites on the Internet. Pictures weren’t loading, site formatting was off. It was late, and I didn’t think much of it. But the next morning some of the sites I visit regularly refused to load at all. I couldn’t reach my blog, or any other site with a wordpress.com address, although the Firebirds site on wordpress.org came right up to greet me.
Being the sort of person who worries at annoyances like a rat terrier, I spent a great deal of that Saturday exploring the depths of my computer. I rebooted the computer. I rebooted the modem. I tried to blame my problems on a recent Windows update and restored the computer to an earlier point. That didn’t help with the connection, but at least it gave me back my Internet Explorer settings–trust me, don’t restore IE to its default settings unless you want to spend quite a lot of time getting it back to the way you like it. I ran Spybot and Malwarebytes, and couldn’t find anything wrong. I ran every diagnostic I could find. Nothing helped.
By Saturday evening I had learned a good bit about the inner workings of the computer, but I hadn’t solved my problem, or gotten much of anything else done (well, I did my grocery shoppping, washed my filthy car, and ran three loads of laundry), and I could feel my blood pressure, not a good thing.
On Sunday morning, not even the weather widget on my desktop worked. I couldn’t get on line at all. Oh, the horror: no email! I dug through my files for the Verizon user guide, resigning myself to a long and possibly indecipherable phone conversation with someone who probably knew the solution but might not be able to explain it in English. But there in the list of things to try before calling for help, right after making sure the plug hadn’t fallen out of the wall, was a suggestion to turn the computer off and reboot the modem by unplugging it.
I do not understand enough physics to know why unplugging the modem would have a different effect than simply turning it off and on (which I had tried. Several times), but I was willing to give it a shot.
And it worked! Well, mostly. I could get back on line, and reach most of the sites I wanted to visit. My email worked, although I couldn’t get to my bank. I could get to my blog, but I couldn’t open a widget to change it. I could get by.
By then I had pretty much come to the conclusion that the problem was not in my computer, but somewhere in my modem or my DSL line, which likely meant dealing with Verizon. At work on Monday morning I told my story to my friend Ha Tran, who can always figure out what’s going on when the computers at the Scorekeeper don’t work.
Ha recognized the trouble. Not the modem, he said, it’s not old enough to fail. More likely the DSL line, but don’t call for a couple of days, because it will probably fix itself.
And he was right. When I got home Monday evening, everything was working fine. Email, TV schedule, social media, online banking, the things I truly need and the things I waste time on. I was greatly relieved, and not a little concerned by how much I depend on this collection of boxes and wires sitting on my desk. And I don’t even have a smart phone. Or a tablet. Yet.
Welcome to the Wired World. Indistinguishable from Magic.