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The Villages
Thursday, March 16, 2023

Are computers really making our lives better?

Barry Evans
Barry Evans

A number of years ago, civilization was excited that computers were becoming more prevalent and their cost was coming down.  Everybody knew that life would be simpler, and that the use of computers would save tons of paper and thus save the forests of the world. There were promises, for example, that you would be able to purchase items from your home with just the click of the button.  Once you clicked, you could go out and play golf, watch a movie (on the computer), order in some pizza or just lay around. Yep, that type of life is what everyone looked forward to!

So, what happened? It seems to me that it was not that long ago you could look in the Sears or Montgomery Ward catalogs.  You could spend some leisurely time looking at what you would like to have.  Once you did, you could either fill out an order form and drop it in the mail with a check or call them on the phone. You could then go out and wash the car or perhaps get an ice cream cone for fifteen cents secure in the knowledge that your order would be on its way.  Today you have similar methods to make an order.  It is true that you no longer must fill out a paper form.  Instead, you get to fill out an electronic one. Of course, the computer will want to know if you are a member of the company from which you are ordering. Having a membership is “good” as it “speeds” up your ordering. If you admit you are, then you need to fill in your user name and password.

The first thing is that you can’t be expected to know all your user and password names.  Thus, you have to go wherever you keep your good old passwords.  Once you have it, that is not necessarily the end as computers are very suspicious.  Even though you use the same password that you did the last time, the computer will often not like it. The computer will then demand that you create another one of a combination of at least eleven small letters, capital letters, numbers, and an obscure mark of some kind. You will also have to put in your email address twice as the computer wants to make certain that you are smart enough to get it correct the first time.  (Sears never required this!)  At some point you will have to go to your email and pick up a secure number that must be placed in the proper slot before the computer will even think about permitting you to proceed.

Once you make it that far, you can place your order by filling in your bank card information – and it is best not to make any mistakes doing that or the computer will get irritated and gleefully point out your dumbness!! Once you make the final input, the computer will change the color of the pages while it checks all the known world to make certain that your card is really yours and more importantly has the credit limit to pay for your order.  You will usually be congratulated and sent back to your email where in a manner of seconds you will get confirmation of your order. They will even give you a tracking number so that if you are a worrywart, you can see where your package is located. If it is on a Slowboat from China it might be a while before it arrives, but you can have fun tracking it anyhow.

Heck, back in the old days, you could order a whole house from Sears & Roebuck with much less fuss. True, you had to fill out a paper order form, but there where no passwords or even storms shutting down the computer. Hardly anything came from China either.  Even the storms, as you are aware, did not stop the U. S. Post Office from its appointed rounds!

OK, computers, and their related tools have resulted in lots of jobs, and companies making millions of dollars. Some of the jobs even try to stop hackers from attacking your computers which as I recall didn’t happen when you sent your order envelope to Montgomery Wards and others. I guess that saving paper is still a goal, so I hope no one makes a hard copy of this.

I wonder when the word “hardcopy” started to show up in our lives? Do you suppose that deep down, people don’t trust computers?

Barry Evans is a columnist for Villages-News.com


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