Throughout history there have been many images painted of hell, each reflecting somewhat the values and vision of the physical world at the time. Let me add another description drawn upon my recent experience here in the second decade of the 21st century.
After my very necessary coffee consumption session one morning two weeks ago, I kissed my lovely bride of 39 years goodbye and drove to the office. Not long after arriving, she called me on my cell phone to report that something was wrong with our computer at home.
Having walked her through a few computer frustrations in the past, I was certain that it was going to be no big deal. She was fairly new to computer issues, and the appearance of a software update request that suddenly popped up on the screen usually prompted her to call me before making the decision to click “yes” or “no.”
When I asked her to describe what happened she simply said, “Well, the screen is all blue.” “WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE IT TURNED BLUE?” I asked in a panic. Nothing really, she said, just looking at Facebook.
For any of you who have not had this happen before let me tell you what a “blue screen” means. It is akin to a person turning blue, indicating a very bad condition that requires immediate remedial action. In most cases, computer death is imminent.
I tried to calmly walk her through a few potential recovery steps, but nothing seemed to work. My worst fears had been realized. The computer from which I publish my daily blog, communicate with my main office, construct thousands of legal documents, and keep my financial records, all of my photographs going back at least 15 years and hundreds of video files downloaded from my digital camera had just died. To say I had a sinking feeling would be a gross understatement. I was actually gripped with fear.
I immediately called my computer consultant looking for the magic suggestion that would make things “all better.” His diagnosis was no help at all.
So that night I went home and tried a bit of resuscitation. It didn’t work. I was comforted to think that I did have a Carbonite subscription and hoped that much of my “stuff” had been backed up, but I was certain that a big number of files were not part of the backup and would probably be lost forever.
The next day I took my dead computer into the hospital and waited for a call from the IT doctor. As usual it came with bad news, good news and more bad news. The first bad news was that the computer had irreversibly crashed and would never function again. The good news was that he thought he could retrieve most of my data files. The more bad news was that I needed a new computer.
I knew what was involved. I’ve actually built my own computer from scratch. And I knew that the improvements in hardware and software that render most machines virtually obsolete after about six months meant that to get back to my powerful web production business I was going to need the biggest and best components and software on the market – an expensive custom machine that wouldn’t be built overnight.
So for the next two weeks I had to get by surfing the web on my iPhone and iPad, the equivalent of a steak lover living on an IV. I had no word processing ability except that which one could purchase by way of an “App,” which meant tapping out every character on a touch screen trying to override the “auto-fill” spelling feature of Apple products. And for a guy who learned to type in high school and blazes on a standard keyboard, tapping a screen for a short text message is one thing, but writing an article, much less a Supreme Court brief would be out of the question.
There I was, trapped in space without my cyber, able to see the world through the bars on my window but unable to express myself or communicate with the outside world except through a glass screen.
What a horrible hell we’ve created for ourselves to become so dependent upon computers. No wonder Homeland Security is paying very close attention to cyber security these days. All of our military communications, power plant control and much of our transportation system in this country is totally dependent upon computers and the Internet. My little experience was nothing when compared to what would happen if GPS technology and the electrical grid went down.
Nope, I’ve not recovered all my files yet. Day after day I open a folder on my new computer only to discover that it is empty of content. I’ve not contacted Carbonite just yet, I’m still counting on the experts at the computer hospital to salvage things for me. At least I now have a keyboard, a mouse and the ability to write and communicate other than the way the kids at Starbucks do.
And whether you missed me or not, I’m back. But the place from which I returned looked a lot like the way in which hell should be described, at least in the context of today’s world of virtual reality.
Marcus Carey is a Northern Kentucky lawyer with 32 years experience. He is also a farmer, talk radio host and public speaker who loves history and politics. He is a prolific and accomplished writer whose blog, BluegrassBulletin.com, is “dedicated to honest and respectful comment on the political and cultural issues of our time.” He writes a regular commentary for KyForward.