Mr. Cope’s Cave: New Stuff


You might remember that early last month I wrote about problems with my old computer, the one I’ve been doing my writing on since Bill Clinton’s first term.

Actually, the problem wasn’t with the computer so much as the keyboard it was married to. I lost the function of four keys. The alphabet I have grown not only accustomed to, but rather fond of as well, went from 26 letters to 22 overnight. I was forced to move my operations over to the other computer. The fancy-schmancy one on the desk. The one with such modern sissy features as color and a built-in thesaurus.

I’ve never quite warmed up to that computer, not like I did with my old one. While the old Mac Classic felt like I was taking a leisurely walk with an aging dog—a golden retriever, perhaps, that had been my constant companion since his young pup days 15 years ago—the fancy-schmancy one feels like it’s always yipping at me about something. Your grammar sucks, dummy! And while you’re at it, open me a can of those Tender Vittles.

Its screen is at least five times the size of Old MacYeller’s, its brain is infinitely bigger and its memory is infinitely longer. But it feels like I’m trying to write on a Pomeranian. Maybe even one of those Chihuahuas that have been bred into absurdity.

As I reported at the time, I checked all over town for a keyboard compatible to a computer model everyone else had thrown away before Miley Cyrus was born, and found nothing. eBay had one, and only one, and I bid on it. My bid won, of course, and I was confronted with the sobering thought that I was the only person on the planet who had a use for a 20-year old piece of technology—which, along with watching your children grow up and have children of their own, has to be one of the more certain ways to feel like time is zipping by.

During those weeks it took before the new (old) keyboard arrived, I had no certainty that it would hook up properly to Mister Macintosh, having made my bid based solely on the evidence of a fuzzy picture of what I hoped was coming. Actually, the whole transaction had been a gamble that it was what I needed. And as the days went by, I grew increasingly uneasy that I had thrown my six bucks—plus shipping—down the eBay toilet.

So out of fear I would be left without any writing machine other than the snotty lap dog over on the desk, I let my BW boss talk me into buying one of the computers she was upgrading out of... away from... whatever. Evidently, it was no longer sophisticated enough for the Boise Weekly, but far more sophisticated than anything I would need for the rest of my life. Assuming I don’t decide to start making movies or design a skyscraper, that is.

I didn’t plug it in right away. I wanted to see what the mail would bring, and when the new (old) keyboard arrived, it worked. Everything you’ve read of mine for the past month has been typed on that keyboard. It was everything I had hoped for, and I was back to walking the patient, faithful old dog, just the way I like it.

Except, as I went back to my normal routine, I started noticing some previously unexperienced abnormalities in the computer, itself. I’d shake it awake in the morning and it didn’t want to get up. Once, I had to hit “Restart” three times before the old familiar tail started wagging.

Furthermore, during the “Spell Check” phase of my process, I was being challenged on my spelling of words like “but” and “the” and “Cope.” It was like my old friend had slipped into the early stages of some sort of electro-dementia, and it was only a matter of time before I would be unable to make any sense on it whatsoever.

And even if its confusion with spelling sorted itself out, I suspect that it would be one thing after another. It would eventually be like trying to keep a ’52 Studebaker running 60 years after the last Studebaker part was turned into a doorstop or something.

So this week, I decided it was time to make the switch. I upgraded to the newer machine. In terms of the word processing program, I moved almost 25 years ahead from one day to the next. I even went out and bought one of those fancy-schmancy cordless keyboard/mouse combos to go with it. And this, right here, is the first thing ever written with the new stuff.

Four days later, it’s all still damned uncomfortable. I can’t get the stupid thing from slapping some kind of colored line under damn near everything I type, and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s instant editing.

It also seems to me the new, fancy-schmancy cordless keyboard is about half as big as the old guy I got off eBay and the one I had used for almost 20-years before that. But I checked and it’s only about an inch shorter and the depth is virtually the same.

Still, when I type, my fingers feel like they have claustrophobia. They keep tripping over keys that didn’t exist on the old keyboards, and I have no idea what most of them do or how they add anything to the writing experience. And tell me... at some point in the last 15 years, did some jerk-off switch the period and the comma? I swear, I keep getting one when I want the other. Wouldn’t surprise me a bit to find out some snot-nosed techie genius down in Silicon Valley decided to turn those keys around, and then announced the change over the FaceTweet system. Or maybe he only told those brats who own fancy-schmancy cellphones.

Anyway, I missed the memo and it pisses me off. You know... if that’s what happened. Or maybe, I’ve always been mixing up the comma and the period, and just now started to notice.

So I think I’ll quit for now and give my poor tensed-up fingers a breather. But I know how interested you are in the smallest, most mundane details of how I get this shit on the page, so be sure that I’ll keep you informed if anything else changes.