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3:34pm on Thursday, 5th April, 2012:

Scrubbed Clean


My younger daughter got a laptop earlier in the year, so the old one of mine she was using went back into storage. Last week, my mother asked me about how to use a computer as she needed to type something that many copies could be printed of. I decided that because my old laptop was not in use, I could perhaps risk letting her have it.

OK, so my mother is completely untechnical. She can't even remember the name of the drink J2O because it sounds too much like a chemical formula. Giving her the laptop was like sending it to the executioner.

Sure enough, I cleaned it up, tested it and took it to her yesterday. It booted up — yay — and I told her how to open Word (click on the icon and then hit return — if I taught her to double-click she'd hit the mouse button so hard she'd break it). She did as instructed, and ... nothing happened. It tried to open, but didn't.

I could open directories, but not programs. I couldn't even open the control panel. I tried rebooting from last known good and that didn't work. It's as if my mother gives off some kind of anti-technology field that stops electronic equipment from functioning.

I took the laptop home and was unable to coax it to do anything. I decided that the only thing to do was to scrub it clean and reinstall Windows on it (which I could do because it's so old a laptop that it had a Windows CD-ROM). It took about 6 hours, but 73 updates and 6 reboots later I had it working. Now, all that it has on it is Word plus some useless stuff that was on one of the install discs (iTunes, QuickTime, AOL membership). Oh, it also has all the viruses that will have leaped onto it when my younger daughter put her memory stick into it for a few seconds.

Of course, when you're dealing with someone for whom the concepts of "click", "return key", "window" and "gently" are alien, you know it's not going to turn out well. Still, it's been at my mother's all day and she's not phoned to say it's broken, so it might be in with a chance.

Realistically, though, I give it no more than 3 weeks.

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Copyright © 2012 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).