The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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2:02pm on Wednesday, 16th August, 2006:



My mother is absolutely untechnical. Anything mechanical or electrical that she is required to touch is on a one-way trip to destruction. Even simple devices such as torches or clocks are too mystifying for her. She'll do things like put in two different-sized batteries with their positive terminals touching each other, or jam even the simplest of mechanism so it's always on or always off. Earlier this year, she took out a lightbulb by turning it in the wrong direction until the glass came out of the metal casing — I had to remove the casing itself using a pair of pliers, trusting that her assertion that "I switched it off" was correct. The most sophisticated thing she comes into contact with is the TV remote control, and despite the fact she's had her new TV for only a few months she's already on her third one. She presses the buttons too hard, manages to reprogram it to a state beyond recovery, stands on it — sometimes all at the same time. Last time, the back came off and she put it back upside-down and held it on with sticky tape that she bandaged all the way round it so at least 4 of its buttons were permanently depressed.

It's not that she's getting old or anything: she's always been this way. Another of her tricks is to break ornaments. She knocks them over, they fall to the floor, and the head comes off. She has wall plates with multiple fracture lines. None of this has taught her to put her ornaments where they're not in the way; this very morning, my younger daughter found some more decorative plates that my mother had placed on a ledge in front of the drawers on her sideboard. The first time those drawers were opened, those plates were going to be sent spinning to the ground. The last ornament she broke, a bird, met its fate because it was on top of the TV at a time when she was shaking it to try get it to accept the remote control's instructions. A couple of years ago, I gave her a tube of superglue so she could fix her own ornaments instead of presenting them to me on my weekly visit, but the first time she used it she was so nervous of getting her fingers stuck together that she didn't actually get a drop out of the tube. Nevertheless, she spent so long failing to use it that the glue set in the nozzle and I had to use a tiny hand-drill I have for modelling to clear it. As soon as I did, the remaining liquid glue shot out under pressure and I lost my 0.5mm bit. Augh!

Thus, it was with some trepidation that a month ago I gave her my old computer. I was expecting that maybe she'd accidentally delete a few vital files, or spill hot chocolate over the keyboard, or somehow bend the pins on the plug for the mouse, but files are recoverable and I do have spare components.

I should have known better.

Three weeks after installing the machine, setting it up, running it, showing her how to call up MS Word, demonstrating how to close it down, then getting her to repeat what I showed her, it gave up. It gave up, as in when you switch it on it gives a long beep, followed my more long beeps every few seconds until you switch it off. It doesn't boot — it doesn't even show anything on the screen — it's basically on life support, waiting for the court order that will allow it a dignified end.

My mother swears she hasn't done anything to it since I installed it, not even switching it on. I believe her, however that doesn't mean she hasn't maybe, oh, lifted it up violently to vacuum-clean underneath, then just let go of it. Or maybe she inexplicably turned on that radiator right beside it, or sprayed air freshener next to it, or switched it on then half a second later switched it off then changed her mind again and switched it on then immediately thought better of it and switched it off. Maybe she just walked into it.

I've taken it home and given her another old PC instead. This one is Windows 98 rather than XP, but all she needs is a word processor so hopefully it's enough. I give it a month, tops, before I'm removing the components for recycling.

The number of things she's broken over the years, it's amazing I survived to adulthood.

Referenced by Waiting.

Referenced by My Mother's Mobile.

Referenced by Electrical Power.

Referenced by Underestimation.

Referenced by Frame Problem.

Referenced by Too Techical.

Referenced by Kindle at Risk.

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).