July 20 - July 26, 1995


Jeff Gets Wired--Almost.

B y  J e f f  S m i t h 


A COUPLE OF weeks back we--the editorial we, as distinguished from the queen of England--introduced you to the Brave New World of the Internet and invited you to go piggy-back with us as we make the jump to light speed. I say this with more than a trace of irony, because personally I've been dragging my feet against progress ever since Eli Wittney invented electricity. (Maybe it was week before last that all this happened: time has more or less ceased to mean anything to me.)

I've had this uneasy accommodation with high-tech since it became apparent to me that the only way I was going to get to live out amongst the cows and horses was to get me one of them damn computers, and a modem and fax, so I wouldn't have to wear out my pickup truck hauling a crop of thoughts to market every week. This worked out pretty good, so I allowed as how a certain amount of progress was tolerable.

Then came the 286, the 386, the 486, the Power PC from Mac, the Pentium, gigabytes, Internet, World Wide Web, and the whole shiteree just spun out of control. The hell with it, says I, and I might have made it stick, too, except that the management of The Weekly fell under the spell of the Internet and got caught in the Web. It is now possible to be connected from your armchair, your desk, the sacked-out end of your couch or wherever you plant your ass for the majority of your waking hours, to every corner of the planet, and every other nerd like yourself, who has a hotrod computer, a modem, and 20 bucks a month to pay some Internet provider.

And as we all know, if it is possible, it will be. If you build it, they will come. Whatever. Lie back and enjoy it.

So I capitulated when Doug and his computer whiz Wil ganged up on me, and agreed to hang around the house last Monday so Wil and Matthew (graphics) could drive out and install the software to get me on the Internet. First problem was I couldn't find my mouse. My computer mouse. I could offer them a fine selection of packrats, some as large as cocker spaniels, and other examples of the genus rodentia, but no computer mouse. I've only spent maybe 10 grand on computers over the years, and done nothing more complex than type words and run them over the phone lines into Tucson. Your literary version of shooting mice with a howitzer.

Anyhow, Wil and Matthew did what they could and left, telling me I needed to get to a computer store and buy a new mouse. It hadn't been a good day for any of us. Me, I was on the hook for yet greater investment in computer hardware (little did I know) and Wil and Matt were sweaty, exhausted and humiliated from having got The Weekly's truck stuck in a wash, trying to find my house. (Actually, it was Doug, our publisher, who got gored worst--he had to buy two new rear tires for the truck, where they got roached, spinning in the rocks and sand where the truck was dug-in.) Not an auspicious beginning for my voyage onto the Internet.

But it gets worse.

Two days later I'm still without a mouse because I refuse to believe the sonofabitch just walked off my desk and escaped to the woods. I talk to Doug about his wore-out truck tires and he tells me I really oughta get a better computer, since I already need a $40 mouse and a $250 new faster modem, and I'm still gonna have a piece a shit once my money's spent. Then Dave Parslow calls and I tell him about the lost mouse and the new modem and all that, and he says when I get a new computer I definitely should get this and that and the other thing and I believe every word he says because he had a fax machine three years ago and actually knew how to make it work, so I'm sitting here in the middle of Wednesday afternoon and I'll be damned if it doesn't start to rain.

Which makes me suddenly very mellow.

I've been pretty bummed and jagged and used-up with the heat and the dry and the positive ions or whatever, along with everybody else I've been talking to, but the skies opened up and the rain came down and I said, "What the hell--I'll go get a new computer and I'll be able to find out everything in the whole world." I actually said that right out loud.

Thirty seven hundred dollars later I'm driving back to Santa Cruz County eating steak fingers and coleslaw from the Lucky Wishbone and feeling like Marconi, pioneer of cyberspace. Two days later, Wil and I are numb with fatigue--it's 11 p.m. on Friday, and we have managed to make my huge new investment in technology not be able to do so much as burp or fart. I wish I had a box of Crayolas and an Indian Chief tablet of paper.

"This is electronically impossible," Wil says.

"Shit happens," says I.

We both nod our heads, I give Wil one for the road and we go our separate ways to sleep on it.

Another two days pass and with the help of Wil on one phone line, and some guy from the technical staff of the computer company on another, I get this bastard working. I am hugely pleased. Tomorrow Wil and I will reinstall all the software we trashed trying to get the thing back to square one. I will be on the Net, wandering the Web, able to download pictures of naked women...

A world of information at my fingertips.

This is going to be a grin. You should come too.

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July 20 - July 26, 1995

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