Man vs. Machine: The End of my Curse with Computers

I can haz gud compooter skilz

I can haz gud compooter skilz

My name is Ladan Nekoomaram, and I am computer inept.

For those of you who face technology failure on a regular basis, I dedicate my Observer blog to you. This blog will be an “idiots” guide of sorts to the technology impaired individuals living in the 21st Century. It’s an attempt to rid myself of my technology curse and embrace the wonders of multimedia in journalism. I’ll go beyond the “get a mac” solution and share revelations that can make life a little easier when dealing with once difficult equipment. We all know the pain of losing your hard work and breaking gadgets worth hundreds of dollars.

Let’s face it, our jobs depend on advancements in editing equipment, video recording and online gadgets. People are gathering information from overseas and their own communities through these innovations in much faster, more effective ways than before.

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This year, J-Lab, the company I work for as part of my graduate assistantship, will be awarding some of these innovators at the 2009 Knight-Batten Awards for Innovation in Journalism. My role in this ceremony was to gather biographical information on all of the award recipients, most of whom come from The New York Times. While this sounds like an arduous task, I learned that the pioneers of this new journalism are actually the techies behind the scene rather than the “Woodward and Bernstein” celebrities of the newsroom. These journalists have strong backgrounds in programming and software engineering–and they’ve found a way of merging their computer skills with creative ways of distributing information. While the newsroom might be shrinking, our consumption of things like slideshows, video clips, tweets, and interactive maps, are growing by the day.

While I’m learning all of the wonders technology can bring to journalism, I find myself in a never-ending battle with my equipment. I am convinced that a computer gypsy cursed me back in high school and I will forever pay my debt to the computer Gods until I am one day reduced to pen and paper. Hyperbolic?

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Let me explain:

I might be one of the few people who sees the dark side of technology on a regular basis.

  • Within the past four years, my computer has crashed almost eight times to the point of losing all of my data. * Two of those years, it happened during finals week.
  • My computer screen cracked during a big project, causing half of the screen to stain like smeared ink for about two weeks (and wasn’t covered by the $300 insurance DePauw made us buy).
  • Last year, the “off” button on my phone jammed, my new watch died, and my computer battery stopped working all within the week I was on vacation in Mexico. Needless to say, I didn’t touch my Kaplan GRE coursework or my senior thesis that was due the day I returned.
  • The “hold” button on my new $200 IPOD jammed during my 45 min stalemate in the METRO during one of the Red Line’s infamous standstills. The Mac guy informed me that because there was a problem with the machine and not the software, I couldn’t use my warranty, although I had it for another six months.
  • My ex-boyfriend dropped my first digital camera while taking a picture of me with 60 girls from my greek house, which ran at about $400. I found my second digital camera lathered in hand lotion that seemed to have cracked and leaked on its own while I was away at my internship. I’m on camera #3, and this time, I bought the Best Buy insurance that hopefully works under any circumstance. I’ve seen all of the evil faces a computer can give you. * The sick Mac Man. * The blue screen of death with a jumble of letters and numbers.
  • The black screen of death with the blinking cursor of false hope. * The Frozen Hourglass and Rainbow Circle that my master fixer (CTRL, ALT, DEL) wont even fix.
  • I’ve even heard a computer die–with the loud, repetitious beat of its heart and the crackling speaker while it croaks out its last words. I’m a very peaceful person, but an inept computer makes me want to scream in hysteria and break things. Kind of like that poor copier in Office Space that the employees mutilated in an empty field. It’s that feeling of stupidity and complete hopelessness that gets me.
This is when you know you're screwed

This is when you know you're screwed

I can’t even count the number of failed internet connections, incompatable Mac/PC technology, and erased projects that have occurred throughout my life. During Bootcamp, I faced a number of techonology-related difficulties that added hours to simple projects. Computer junkies would say that all my techonology failures are “user caused” because, well, I don’t know how to keep my technology healthy and problem solve. I’ll agree with that, but next time they wake up to the blue screen of death or their camera soaked in lotion, then tell me it’s my fault.

What’s my status on technology today? Well, I spent six hours on a slideshow project that should have taken two, the internet I pay for dearly won’t connect at my house, I’m facing the black screen/ blinking cursor, and I’ve got a project due in two days. My goal in grad school is to get rid of this technology curse (and apparent phobia) and embrace it for what it can bring to my work.

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