New job, day one. I sat looking up at the Dell wondering how to turn it on. On
the monitor is a button that looked hopeful so I pressed it to illuminate a tiny
lamp on the button. After a few moments of waiting for something to happen,
nothing did, apart from adding a tiny bit extra to my carbon overhead. The Dell
remained a blue-black lump of lifeless plastic.
Being a Mac user since nineteen eighty-something, this promoted a problem
because, in my experience, if the monitor is alive so should be the computer. I
jiggled the mouse, a large and ugly object probably made out of left-overs from
the part-bins in East German Trabant factories. Then I pressed the spacebar on
a keyboard made from cheap, clickety-clackety plastic.
The tiny lamp on the monitor’s button kept its steady glow, but all the screen
showed was fingerprints of previous users and the scrapes where they ran their
nails down it in desperation. At least the screen is LCD and not cathode ray.
After years of not using a flickering, luminescent monster, LCD is a definite
plus, even if it is about the size of my MacBook’s. Until I could coax some
activity on the screen, I couldn’t start work. It was time to examine the CPU
You Ought to See My Floppy
I see the front has two slots, one with the initials DVD in barely discernible
capitals, and an oblong button. Even a Mac user recognises this as the way to
get the coffee cup holder to slide in and out. I pressed it anyway. Beneath the
DVD was another thinner slot, also with a button.
Could it be…no, surely not…a floppy disk drive? Good Lord! Do they still make
floppy disks? Apple abandoned the whole idea years ago, and here I am, supposed
to work with a computer with a floppy drive. How old is this machine for
goodness sake? I pressed the button on the floppy drive, just in case. Nothing
Where next to start grabbing my share of Lotus, destined to replace QuarkXPress,
Photoshop and all software which my skills have been honed to perfection over
the last 20 years? The only other recognisable elements on the front of the CPU
are a pair of USB ports—and USB 1 at that.
Obviously the “On” button must be on the side or maybe round the back. A large,
raised, oval silver area looked hopeful but yielded no results. I saw an
identical one on the other side and pressed them both out of devilment, hoping
that maybe the case would open so I could see inside. Nothing happened. Nor was
there a button round the rear of the computer, only a sticker saying Windows
XP2. The computer sat there “looking” at me in its oh-so-smug Dellness.
Look at the Monkey
All I could think of was the video of Steve Ballmer doing an impression of a
monkey at a Microsoft conference. His sweaty armpits leaking darkly into his
blue shirt. That just about sums up this computer, old and sweaty.
No computer meant no work. Everything I needed to do in my new role was inside
that computer. I asked a colleague for help, he waved his hand across the front
of the CPU, pressed something, and the machine sprang to life. This is not life
as we know it. A noise filled the room, sounding like an asthmatic extractor fan
desperately needing a squirt of WD-40.
After waiting a few minutes and still nothing, I noticed some faint lettering on
the screen inviting me to “Enter Password” followed by a blinking cursor. Time
to make some educated guessing. I played at being a hacker for five or ten
minutes, largely to make myself look busy before walking to the administration
I was walking because no one had shown me how to work the phones yet, phones
which had handsets still attached to bases by curly cords. No more wandering
round making calls, tucking the handset between chin and shoulder to allow
secondary, often more important pursuits such as typing, kneading bread, and
opening bottles of wine with one hand.
The office administrator didn’t even look at me as she said: “I haven’t put you
on the system yet so you can’t use the computer. We got new ones in this year so
I’ll see you on Monday next week and go over them with you.”
Logmein Not Chowmein
I got home that evening, after a day spent being incredibly helpful, making
umpteen cups of tea coffee for anyone who looked slightly dehydrated, meanwhile
cleaning the kitchen area to spotlessness. My partner suggested I install the
free Logmein on my Mac, and hope that I’ll be able
to use it via a Web browser once the Dell lets me in. Then I’ll be able to have
a Dell running my Mac Pro back in my own office. I’ll also take my MacBook in
case I can pick up a wireless network somewhere, and possibly put hard,
yet-to-be-earned cash, to buy into the iPhone hype.
Otherwise I think I shall try to catch swine flu in preference to going back to
my new job next week.