It is amazing to me that, as much as personal computers have changed our lives, they are still frustrating and confounding machines. When you buy a television, you more or less expect to be able to plug it in and start watching it. But computers are still tempermental, delicate creatures.
I have bought five computers in the past 18 years, and I have had major problems with all five of them at one time or another, from bad mother boards to bad CPU fans to viruses to planned obsolescence.
The newest computer arrived for my sons for Christmas - a new Dell to replace the six-year-old Compaq that can simply no longer keep up with 21st Century software. I opened the box yesterday morning and started putting it together. Everything seemed to be OK, and it booted up just fine... but there was just one problem. There was no sound.
I checked the speakers. I checked the audio drivers. The Windows Vista device manager became my best friend. I ran the machine through its paces, installing and uninstalling with wild abandon - all to no avail. Fortunately, my good friend, Bill, was coming for dinner last night. Bill and I have been through many a computer battle together, and he knows far more about them than I do. Bill and I spent more than an hour messing with the computer after dinner (and therefore avoiding doing dishes, too!), and we both concluded it was not a software issue. The sound card that had been built into the motherboard must have gone bad.
So, sometime around 11 pm, I called Dell support, and was routed to a "Mr. Williams", who I learned was speaking to me from Mumbai. "Mr. Williams" was a very pleasant and helpful-sounding man, who proceeded to ask permission to poke around my computer to see if he could ascertain the problem with my machine. I, of course, granted said permission, and was both bemused and amazed to watch him take over my screen from half-a-world away. He poked and prodded with my mouse cursor - and tried every trick that Bill and I had just spent the evening trying. Then he tried them all again. And again.
I was fairly certain "Mr. Williams" was under strict orders from his boss to find a software problem, and that he would be fed to the street rats if he found a hardware issue. Alas, "Mr. Williams" may now be Purina Rat Chow, because finally - at 12:40 am - nearly two hours after the phone call started, and long after Bill had gone home, he cheerfully announced that I must have a bad motherboard, and he assured me that someone in a Dell uniform would be by in the next day or two to replace it for me.
I was so relieved to A- get off the phone and B- have the knowledge that someone would be coming to my house to fix the computer, that it pretty much buried any outrage I may have felt that the machine I had spent several hundred dollars for was broken when it arrived at my house!
Thank you, Mr. Williams! Come again!