Technology Chaos and A Mouse
Before I embark on my tech story, allow me to introduce myself.
I am a retired medical doctor. My specialty was internal medicine and I spent most of my medical career in ERs making rapid diagnoses and interventions. Since retirement eight years ago, I have authored eight books and indie-published six of them. I am up most days before sunrise at my computer, writing.
A few weeks ago, without warning, my desktop computer gasped and turned blue. I immediately recognized it as the blue screen of death. With the speed of an ER doc, I grabbed my laptop, and sought a solution on Amazon. I found what I needed — a new one-terabyte hard-drive. This magical piece of technology that 40 years ago would have filled a room, arrived within two days, sealed in a small bubble-wrap envelope. My ill computer and the new hard-drive took an ambulance ride with me to a Tech ER.
The computer doc greeted us and immediately went into resuscitation mode. He surgically removed the old-hard drive and performed a transplant before my eyes. With a flick of the switch my desk top computer came to life, data saved, with no residual brain damage.
Experiencing personal relief with no residual Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I returned to my passion of writing. Up before dawn, words flowed from my brain through my fingers and onto my screen with the speed of light. My new terabyte transplant operated at Mach speed and showed no signs of rejection. I believed my technology problems were over, but within a week, I experienced another technology catastrophe.
Without warning, my lifeline to the world experienced an energy failure. The battery of my cell phone refused to hold a charge.
When patients complained about old age, low energy, bad joints or a sleep problem, I understood. With age, the body slows down and sometimes needs a boost – a thyroid hormone, a joint replacement, or sometimes, just a good night’s sleep to recharge the body’s biological batteries.
Maybe all my cellphone needed was a good night’s sleep. I turned it off, plugged it in and checked it in the morning. Nothing. A visit to an urgent care battery clinic seemed simple enough. The expert carefully removed a warped battery looking like it had an aneurysm ready to blow. He confirmed it wasn’t low thyroid after all, but a function of old age.
The new battery didn’t charge. Battery-man turned to electronic diagnostics for help, but alas, the phone flat-lined.
My phone was not repairable. At least my phone had died a natural death. My two previous cell phones had experienced terrible drowning deaths. One took a dive in an outhouse, the other glugged to the bottom of a delicious latte, taking my data with it.
My search for a new phone began that same afternoon. Unwilling to pay the price of the latest model, I looked for a refurbished phone — the search took me down a rabbit hole of hundreds of phone options and unfamiliar terminology. I needed a technology specialist’s help.
Using my landline, I called a techie relative and took his advice. I found a refurbished cellphone online. Two days later it arrived in a bubble-wrap envelope. I visited my Straight Talk service provider who transferred my data and sent me on my way feeling connected once again. Back home, I added new apps, including an exercise calculator to remind me to get off my chair and move around more. It’s like having a personal trainer in my pocket.
I returned to my writing, enjoying the new technology. Everything ran smoothly for several days, until another shocking malfunction occurred. It was 6:00 am. I had been working at my computer a little over an hour when my Fitbit reminded me to get up and and start counting steps. I walked to the kitchen, made a fresh pot of coffee and returned with a steamy cup of my favorite brew to continue editing my latest novel when both screens suddenly went black.
I followed a tangle of umbilical wires from monitors to computer. They were braided together with telephone, lamp and microphone wires, cords that had functioned for years. In the end, the main monitor was “undetectable.” Seconds earlier that same monitor was working fine. This looked like sudden death. Had the hard-drive totally failed? After wiggling a lot of cords, both monitor screens flickered and lit up, but without icons, mouse function or anyway to access my computer or the internet.
I went to my trusty laptop again, to troubleshoot the problem. After reading through many forums, I concluded my computer needed a new monitor driver.
After more reading and looking at a couple instructional YouTubes, I changed my diagnosis. The computer needed a new video card. I wasn’t exactly sure what a video card was, but I did find a large selection on Amazon. I had to do more research before placing an order, so watched a few more YouTube tutorials. I had trusted cute guys in bib overhauls to help me through fixing my dishwasher and tiling my laundry room but was not feeling confident they could guide me through a video card transplant.
I decided to continue untangling the rats’ nest of cords from behind and beneath my desk. The cords ran from monitors to computers, to a backup laptop, two external hard-drives, a landline, a video camera, and cell charger. I carefully labeled all the cords at each end and re-checked my connections. It took several hours of sitting on the floor with dust bunnies running by and dead flies surfacing from beneath the tangle of cords.
A final check suggested the cords were all connected properly until I moved the monitors to dust behind them. The main monitor cord looked like a highly diseased neuron. The sheath over the wire was severely damaged. Tiny missing chunks exposed bare wires. Defects along the wire looked like nibble marks. Hmmm.
Could that adorable mouse that visited me a few months earlier have been chewing on my main monitor cord? I had met him eye to eye when he was sitting on the top of a can of beans in my pantry munching on a trail-mix bar. It was probably tastier than the covering on the monitor cord.
His round pink ears looked far too large for his little head. Black eyes stared back at me looking as though he had to seriously consider whether to drop the delicious trail-mix bar and run away, or not. I couldn’t kill him. He was so adorable.
I told him to stay put but that I was issuing an eviction notice. I turned on the vacuum and sucked him through the hose into the transparent dust catcher. He landed on a cushion of dog hair and looked out at me from his plastic cage. I would have scolded him for chewing my computer cord had I known at that time what he’d been up to, but he was so little and frightened, I took him outside and let him go find a new home.
I decided my desk top computer needed a complete check-up and I wasn’t up to the task. The gnawed cord was not the problem, but I replaced the cord and dug out an old laptop to use as a secondary backup while the desktop went back to the hospital.
I plugged in my old laptop and found out it was just too old to run anymore. The XP operating system was no longer supported by Microsoft or anyone else. Besides, it was locked and required an administrator for access. I am its administrator, but do you think I could remember the password? Not on your life. It was inaccessible in my brain data bank.
I returned to my new laptop to contact the Best Buy Geek Squad to help me figure out how to get the desktop computer and monitors functioning again. Suddenly, an alert appeared on the laptop screen telling me to immediately change my password. Someone in a nearby town was trying to log onto my computer.
I quickly changed my password and wrote it down in a secure location.
The Geek Squad gave me an appointment time and said to bring my computer and monitors in for a complete diagnostic exam. I unplugged all those cords I had just finished labeling and rearranging. I loaded up my computer and made an ambulance run to the Best Buy ER, staffed by amazing geeks with crazy hairdos, body art, and so many facial piercings I was concerned they might short out. Within a day, they discharged the computer to my care in fine shape.
I diligently save and back-up my work on an external hard drive. I also save my work in a cloud where mice don’t live.
My computers and monitors are up and running. I have returned to writing medical thrillers full-time. My books are available on Amazon. Check them out. All proceeds from the sales of my books will probably go to the repair or purchase of new technology so I can keep writing.
I love technology – when everything works.
Thanks for stopping by.
Author Betty Kuffel, MD
Remember, nothing is black and white.