Protect Your Computer

Copyright 1989 by Robert L. Gidley. All rights reserved.

This one has a few problems: a limited audience, and it's not too funny. I think I ended up reaching too far to make the point.

Your computer is humming along as you move the black Queen to the red King, when suddenly--nothing. Mr. Mouse is asleep, Mr. Keyboard has taken a vacation, and Mr. Computer is no longer on speaking terms with you. And just as you were about to win!

Is this just coincidence? Hah! The mischievous computer spirits decided they weren't going to let you win this game. They were unhappy--so they grabbed your attention in the only way they know.

How often has something weird happened to your computer and then suddenly it starts working again? The technician rattles his pens in his pocket protector and mumbles "Some transient in the power supply," or "Cosmic rays from outer space."

(Actually, real technicians never blame things on cosmic rays, although we are constantly bombarded by zillions of these little bitty bits of radiation that cause mutations and make geiger counters in 1950s B-movies click like crazy. Which may explain why you never see geiger counters any more.)

Scientists say that each little chip in your computer contains thousands and thousands of teeny tiny transistors and other electrical doo-dads. Each mini-micro inch of a chip (they say with a straight face) contains a bunch of circuits carefully etched into silicon. (If a scientist ever asks you up to look at his etchings, be sure to bring a microscope.)

Scientists expect us to believe these transistors are so small that we can't even see them, and even more absurd, that they can put bazillions of these little transistors next to each other, without messing up anything. These are the same people who didn't even bother to look through the Hubble telescope before launching it into space ("Hey Ernie! We got any lens paper that's 10,000 miles long?").

How do we know what's inside a chip? Easy, open one of those suckers up. Do we see teeny tiny transistors? No!

We see what looks like (and is) a miniature city with little roads running all around. A miniature city full of miniature computer spirits. They have their own little freeways and parks and restaurants and motels. Each chip contains thousands of tiny little spirits who go to work in tiny silicon skyscrapers and take lunch breaks and chase little nymphs around silicon desks.

By the time all these little cities are assembled into a computer, you have a teeming metropolis of spirits, all busily adding and subtracting and multiplying and making your computer run.

And, because we believe the scientists, sometimes these little spirits say "Hey! This guy thinks we're all a bunch of little electrons whizzing around inside of rocks! Electrons, hah! We'll show him!" The next thing you know, your computer has stopped. Transient in the power supply, indeed!

Is there anything you can do about this? You bet! Like all spirits, your computer spirits just want a little attention.

After extensive research into this topic, using such scientific instruments as a magnifying glass and a six-pack of beer, I have managed to catalog the spirits that inhabit your computer.

Disk Drive Demons are the most aggressive types of spirits. If they feel the least bit slighted, they pounce on the master copy of your $800 software and chew holes in a few sectors.

Or they race through your hard disk and move stuff around, so your letter to Aunt Agnes gets mixed in with your Quarterly Report. ("And in the southern region we found that hand-knit argyle socks were really great! It keeps my little tootsies nice and warm and makes me think of home-made cookies.")

Disk Drive Demons want you to know that they are in control, that you respect their power over your data. The best way to placate them is to sacrifice a floppy disk to them weekly. This also satisfies their ferric oxide lust and keeps them from munching on your working disks.

CPU Sprites are the hardest working of the computer spirits. In the world of computer spirits, CPU Sprites are the "executives." They are constantly giving orders to the other spirits ("Hello, Disk Drive Demon Central? Fetch me a few megabytes of data, would you?").

Everyone knows that magnets and computers don't mix. Not many people know that this is because magnets are repositories for tiny demons. These demons are always eager to get near good spirits so they can try to change them--which is why magnets stick to metal surfaces.

You can make CPU Sprites happy by occasionally taking a small magnet and whapping it to pieces with a hammer. CPU Sprites like to see this kind of wholesale carnage of demons, and you can look forward to months of trouble free service after a good demon bashing session.

Monitor fairies, their tiny paintbrushes in hand, race around inside your monitor and paint colorful pictures on the screen.

Monitor fairies are most annoyed by boring graphics. If you listen carefully while you are creating a bar graph, you can hear little voices crying "For this I went to art school for four years?!"

Since the liveliest graphics are found in games, the best approach for placating the monitor fairies is to play games at least once a day. This lets them limber up their paint palettes and do some serious drawing.

Lastly, there are the Keyboard Gremlins. These little guys like nothing better than to sneak into your keyboard and make the keys send out wrong characters. Especially in word processing programs--which accounts for the large number of typographical errors in the world.

The best way to deal with Keyboard Gremlins is to keep a full cup of coffee next to the keyboard. Announce in a loud voice "Boy, I sure hate typos! They make me really nervous! So nervous I knock things over, like this full cup of hot coffee with a cup of sugar in it!" Keyboard Gremlins hate hot coffee, especially with sugar because it makes them all sticky.

So throw away that can of anti-static spray, cancel your maintenance contract, and forget about that streaming tape backup. Invest your money in some garlic, a few talismans, and you can work in harmony with the spirits in your computer.

Next: Making your PC into an AT by giving incentives to the spirits.

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Copyright 1989 by Robert L. Gidley. All rights reserved.