Thursday, July 20, 2017

Computers under the control of magicians

How many of you are old enough to remember:
“The computer for the rest of us” and
“1984 will not be like 1984”

These were two of the slogans that Apple used in 1984 when it introduced the Mac.  I loved it with its WIMP interface (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pictures).  Almost everything you needed to know was on the screen.

Many Mac users of that time were eager for the newest operating system or newest Mac: hard drives, multi-tasking, color.

I can’t pinpoint when it all changed, but I stopped looking forward to the latest operating system.  Features that worked fine on OS P were a nightmare on OS Q.  It seemed that the gratuitous changes were made only to keep programmers employed.  Or that a new set of programmers had to do it their way no matter what most long-time customers wanted.

This has been one of those bad years for me.

Sometime in March or April, Apple made a minor update.  It did not seem like a big deal and I installed it.  I found out much to my chagrin that my Epson WF-3640 would no longer accept paper from anything but Tray 2.  I thought the machine didn’t work and exchanged it with Best Buy on a warranty.  The second one did the same thing.

After a couple of calls to Epson I learned that Apple had changed the print dialog to all the information the user needed from being on the screen to being buried under certain choices.  Once I had that info, I could print from whatever tray I chose.

Then Apple provided a gratuitous “EPSON Printer Software Update, Version 3.3”.  I downloaded and installed it.  Now my printer didn’t work at all!

A third person at Epson said it was my cable.  Well, as I talked to him, I did have my external hard drive connected, not the printer.  But when I was off the phone and had the proper connection, it still didn’t work.

I next tried the the friendly folks at Geek Squad.  I described the basic problem and they were ready to set me up with a Geek Squad account.  Each time I got near the bottom of the payment window it would disappear.  What were they ready to blame: my browser (Safari).  What?  There are dozens of payment windows that work just find with Safari.

I had to go elsewhere and excused myself.

Today, I despaired and went to Best Buy to buy another cable.  i also bought a couple of thumb drives to replace those that I “crashed” by taking them out of the USB slot before closing them.  Another story for another day maybe.

I plugged my new cable into my MacBook and into the printer.  Nothing happened.  I couldn’t print.

I didn’t keep track of the buttons I pushed on the printer and the computer, but the results varied widely as to what happened.  Eventually my Mac and my Epson printer connected properly with one another.  I really don’t want to be a scientist who keeps meticulous notes on every step and every observation.  After all, the Mac is the computer for the rest of us.  And after 58 years being involved with computers (from punched cards to rooms full of tape drives) I just want to be an ordinary user.

Then I exchanged the new cable for the old cable.  Everything worked as it should.

As a senior wailed in the computer lab when I was a graduate assistant, “That isn’t what I meant!