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July 2007

July 2007 - Computers

Gallery

Columns

  • EMG News:
    News of July!
  • Healthy Green Artists:
    Greening Your Computer
  • Behind the Art:
    Creating a Book in InDesign
  • Myths and Symbols:
    Inhuman Double
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Digital Evolution

    Features

  • P4S5W0RD5
  • The Fairies' Harp Walkthrough
  • 1001 Wonderlands: Alternate Reality Games

    Fiction

  • Fiction: Game Over?
  • Fiction: Computerized Frustration
  • Fiction: Crashing
  • Fiction: My Computers

    Reviews

  • Movie: Men in White


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  • Crashing
    by Alexander Cresswell

    My computer emitted a shrill bleep, informing the world that a "limited ineffability error" had occurred, and that the document I had been working on was irretrievable.

    Angels do not swear. It simply doesn't occur. What I did was describe to the computer, at length, a more suitable location for it. After all, we send troublesome employees there, why not equipment?

    Having found that the backups were replaced with a mangled gibberish of theological debates and moral platitudes, I gave up on the thing and phoned Maintenance. Then I turned to talk to Sesurel. It pains me to admit that he is rather more comfortable with computers than me, but he still has to use the office machines, and thus would be sympathetic to my plight.

    "Why do we not have some decent computers? Ones that make some effort to be cooperative?"

    He shrugged.

    "It's not as if there's any sense in writing these reports anyway. I mean, they already know where we went and what we were transporting. And we signed out when we left and signed in when we got back, so they know how long we spent. If nothing happened, and we didn't submit any expenses, why do we have to write reports? And why do we have to type them?"

    Sesurel nodded absently.

    "We joined the Courier Department to get out and about! To travel the heavens and the earth. In other words, specifically so we wouldn't have to be stuck in offices all day."

    "Mmm," Sesurel said.

    It dawned on me that Sesurel might not be listening. Instead, he was staring at his monitor with rapt fascination. I leaned over to look at his screen. At the bottom I saw an angel, throwing spears of sunlight at the serried ranks of red-skinned devils who paraded across the top of the screen, trying to bombard him with fireballs. Thus far he was dodging effectively.

    I sighed. "Sesurel?"

    "Mmm," he said again.

    "Why do we not have any good equipment?"

    He looked up suddenly. "That's a point, actually. Why don't we have any good equipment?" On the screen a fireball reduced the angel to a blackened skeleton. The computer informed him that he had lost his last life, and listed his score.

    I blinked. "It was a rhetorical question."

    "Yes, but it's a good point, Anduruc. Why don't we have any decent equipment? And why do we have all these budget problems?"

    Fortunately at this time the Maintenance cherub arrived. When Sesurel starts on one of these pointless diversions, he can continue indefinitely if he isn't interrupted. As it was his attention was diverted to shutting down the game before anyone saw it.

    The cherub sat down at my computer, tapped at the keyboard and sucked at his teeth. After a while he looked up. "Did you do this all by yourself?" he asked.

    I gritted my teeth. "I didn't do any of it. It just happened."

    "Well, there's nothing for it, I'm afraid. You'll have to get a new one."

    "And how do I go about doing that?"

    "Well, you need to fill in the requisition form. You just download it off the staff network, and they've got dropdown menus for most things. It's a piece of cake."

    "And I would get a hard copy . . . where?"

    "Oh, they don't do them anymore. The whole drive to computerize thing, you know."

    I looked at him, looked at my computer, and sat down, defeated.

    "This is not a good idea," Sesurel said. He's made the same statement a dozen times before, but he still felt obliged to say it again.

    "Sesurel, I need a new computer. Here at Accounts they have the best computers. The cleaners have already been. No one's working late. No one will know."

    We moved a long the corridor, tiptoeing towards the spares cupboard. Sesurel was carrying a large sack.

    "Why do they have the best computers?" he whispered after a moment.

    "What?"

    "Why are their computers so much better than ours? And look, they've got a cupboard for spare office equipment. We don't store the spares, we use them. They're all we've got. So why has accounts got so much more than us."

    "Look, not that business again. Our department budget's a bit stretched, that's all. Now can we stop talking? Someone might hear us, and now what are you doing?" Sesurel had stopped creeping a long the corridor, and was looking through one of the office doors. His face was illuminated by the eerie glow of an active monitor.

    "Anduruc, look at this!" he whispered eagerly.

    I grabbed his arm and dragged him away. "No. I don't care what it is. If we get caught here we'll be in a lot of trouble. It's just a case of in and out with the machine."

    We had reached the cupboard and opened it. I stared for a long moment and then slumped against the wall. Sesurel reached in, took out a small card and read what was written on it. " 'There are no spare monitors or computers at this time. There will be a new spare after the next delivery. We apologize for the inconvenience.' "

    The next day I was walking through the office with Sesurel, ranting about computers and the officious, narrow minded bureaucrats who had got the bizarre idea that computers we of any use whatsoever, and how I was going to spend the rest of eternity struggling with the ghastly technology they purchased from the cheapest suppliers, when I saw my desk and stopped. On it, from left to right, was a set of filing trays, a large pad of A4 lined paper, a pot of pencils, and a slide rule.

    I was overwhelmed with nostalgia.

    "How...?" I asked Sesurel, knowing how the management frowned on such things these days.

    "I told Getherax over in Miracles about your problem. He pulled a few strings. You'll have to scan stuff sometimes, of course, but that gives you an excuse whenever the scanner's broken, which it always is, and anyway . . ."

    "It's better than computers." I finished.

    ,

    Alexander Cresswell is a student in Oxford, England, studying History, English, and Physics. He is an avid writer and intends to make career of it. This is one of a series of angel stories he has written.
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