Uncle Phil's Anecdotes
All Greek to
wasnt a lot to ask, one might have thought. And I was perfectly
happy to offer a quid pro quo quite a few quid for about ten minutes
worth of quo, as it happened. But before parting with my hard-earned I
needed some expert advice. Well, you do sometimes, dont you. And
that, after all, is what theyre there for. But lets backtrack
for a minute.
used to have a home in one location and an office in another. And as advancing
years and the want of any female input (or nagging to use
the technical term) means that I can no longer run my life without relying
on an inanimate object to tell me what I should be doing, and when, and
to whom, each venue had a computer in it. But for reasons that are irrelevant
to this discourse, the office closed, and I now work from home. With the
result that I now have two computers on my desk. So? Its a big desk.
And a chap can work with two computers if he wants to, cant he?
It looks a bit flash, and probably doesnt improve productivity much,
but theres no law against it.
it occurred to me, after weeks of swapping floppy discs between machines,
that it might be a jolly good wheeze to get my two little helpers to talk
to each other without recourse to my physical intervention. Ive
got the software its merely a question of the right connection.
I reasoned. And while I was at it, it might prove advantageous to have
a means of connecting my printer and my Zip drive so that either computer
can use them without an orgy of plugging and unplugging. Furthermore,
for some months now Ive had a yen for both a scanner and a CD writer.
- lets go the whole hog, I thought. Bite the bullet, James. Sort
it all in one hit.
Im comparatively computer-literate, and can, given time, work out
how to tweak the software to do roughly what its told, hardware
is a different matter, both in the choosing and in the installation thereof.
Computer magazines offer a vast choice, but I get lost in all those identifying
numbers why they dont take a leaf out of the motor industrys
book and give their products easily remembered names Ill never understand.
Not only that, the acres of 2-point print make my old eyes glaze over.
all that electronic knitting at the back of the box flummoxes me. Im
well aware, like programming videos, that any 10 year old kid can hack
it, but I dont own a ten year old kid. Its of necessity a
DIY job. I needed help.
it was that this stout, bespectacled, elderly book dealer wandered into
his local PC World, wallet full of plastic and heart full of hope. Why
PC World? Well [a] its around the corner, [b] one can park
outside, [c] they were having a sale, [d] I bought one of my computers
there and hoped that they might know what add-ons might be compatible
with it, and [e] their adverts promise that they have experts on hand
for the express purpose of advising potential customers.
wandered up and down the aisles, looking for a sales person One can easily
spot the sales persons in PC world they all wear red tops
its a bit like Butlins, but with more technology and less Ho-de-Ho.
And by and large the clienteles wobbly bits arent visibly
trying to escape from optimistically chosen swimwear.
back to the sales team. Recognising the animal is easy; finding one is
another matter. On a good day, to patrol a floor the size of Wembley Stadium,
PC World might, only might its not guaranteed provide
two. And one of those will probably be in the loo. Youve got a better
chance of finding an all-day parking space outside Harrods than finding
a sales staff in PC World.
I got lucky. I stalked one down, lurking over by the scanners, trying
not to catch the eye of anything he thought was vaguely customer-shaped.
However, he looked like he wasnt long past the ten-year-old-kid
stage, which could be an advantage. I collared him.
want various things, but as were here, lets start with a scanner.
waved a languid hand along the aisle beside us.
all along ere. And turned to walk away. I called him back.
hang on a minute I need some advice
contempt was almost palpable. Wadgerwanna know
a lot, really; for instance, whats the difference between this one
pointing at a machine priced at about £95, and that one,
indicating another, going for a mere 200 smackers or so. He looked at
me as if I were simple. Pointed at the lower priced article.
dear, oh dear, oh dear. Its going to be a tough old day. Never mind
I can see that, but why is it cheaper. Whats the difference?
He waved at the other one.
I could voice the obvious question, he favoured me with some gratuitous
need a scuzzy card. Ave yer gotta scuzzy card?
had me, there. While Ive got a walletfull of Visas, a couple
of MasterCards, an Amex, a cheque card, a Tescos loyalty card, (and
a Sainsburys ditto so much for the loyalty bit)
and membership cards from such diverse enterprises as the RAC, the National
Trust and the lap-dancing club in Hackney, as far as I know my life is
a bit devoid of scuzzy card.
some trepidation, I asked the next obvious question.
does a scuzzy card do?
must have read something ominous in my face. Waxed positively eloquent.
aveter put one inter yer compuer, if it aint got one
will I know whether theres one in there or not
Ow olds yer machine? Wot make izzit? Wheredjageddit?
a Packard Bell. Platinum. I bought it here, a year ago.
Dead obserlete, them are. Nah dat wont avva scuzzy card.
voice positively dripped derision. It was the dat which got
to me. I felt like something that had crawled out from under a stone.
Have you any idea what its like to be The Man Who Was Caught In
PC World Admitting To Owning An Obsolete Computer Without A Scuzzy Card?
O the shame of it! Ill never be invited to a Royal Garden Party
now. Ill never get past the door at Stringfellows. Next time I walk
into the pub therell be an embarrassed silence followed by a forest
of pointing fingers and much sotto voce tittering. Unclean! Unclean!
decided to change the subject. We could get back to the finer points of
scanners later. Glossing over the fact that my other machine almost certainly
wasnt in the scuzzy card club either, I began to tell him about
my communication problems vis-a-vis the two computers.
didnt let me get far.
Sno good arskin me. Technical, that is. You goer talkter Technical.
the time I managed to get the question out as to the precise location
of Technical, he was half way down the next aisle, on his way to confuse
his next victim into a state of helpless catatonia. Up the front
he called out, his voice trailing away into nothing.
made my way up the front. I couldnt find any obvious
clues as to the whereabouts of the omniscient Technical, but there was
a counter, with a sign above it saying Customer Services,
or some such. Thatll do.
queued for about half an hour while the sole red-top job behind the counter
engaged in an abstruse discussion in fluent gibberish with the anorak
in front of me, concerning the finer points or otherwise of a square piece
of green plastic with lots of bits soldered on and with various wires
hanging from it. I dont know what it was, exactly, but it looked
suspiciously like I reckon a scuzzy card ought to look. Very computery.
they finished, and I began to relate my tale of woe to the red-top. Once
again, I didnt get very far.
he said. What you need is a network kit. Cost you about £150
as I said, I have the software to run the two machines in tandem,
once connected, and this points out quite clearly that you dont
need a ton-and-a-halfs worth of Network kit, merely about twenty
quids worth of cable. All I needed was said cable, with the correct
fitting at each end, and some idea as to where exactly to plug them in.
I pointed this out, hopefully sounding more confident than I felt. I wish
I hadnt bothered.
no. no. You cant do that because the squizzlefark will undisquat
because the murgles arent compatible with the fanglebeep and the
skemperclods wont interscrodge with the hellegumps. You definitely
need a network kit. Theyre over there. In boxes.
in the general direction of the middle of the store. About half an acre
of assorted goodies. All in boxes.
Ri-ighttt, I said, but before I go and look, can you tell
me about CD writers?
a moment, I thought Id cracked it. He came round from behind the
counter and led me to the nearest aisle.
are what youre looking for. Theyre all roughly the same price,
and roughly the same spec personally Id go for this one
picked one up. The box was pretty, if less than informative. How
do I fit it?
you just plug the cable into the parallel port in the back of your
one thing I do know is that theres only one parallel port in the
back of my computer ( either computer, thinking about it) and that my
printer is already plugged into it. I imparted this information.
worry - he said smugly buy a UHT cable and plug it
into the UHT Port. Does your computer have a UHT port?
all honesty, Im not sure about the UHT. It could have
been UVL, or UHF, or UFO. Or PMT
for that matter.
Ive no idea I admitted, suddenly wary. I wouldnt
know a UHT port if I was drinking it.
How olds your computer? What make is it? Where did you get it?
With a certain amount of trepidation, borne of experience, I imparted
this information. He visibly and not very successfully tried not to fall
about laughing, and edged away, as if I had a communicable disease.
Im sorry Im not supposed to be on the sales
floor I must get back behind the counter. Why dont you ask
a sales staff?
sorry, PC World, but at that point I gave up. Walked out. Sans scanner,
sans CD writer, sans network kit, sans anything.
I asked was to buy the goodies I needed, to be given some idea of how
to connect them all up, to be reassured that it would all work, and to
solve the problem of connecting my two computers. Forgive me, but I thought
that that was what you do. Its certainly what you advertise you
Im not being unreasonable in expecting to have my problems solved,
preferably in English, preferably without A level buck-passing, preferably
without being dragged down into the nerdworld of UFO ports and scuzzy
cards, and preferably without being treated as an object of derision because
my computer, which I bought from yourselves barely a year ago, is as obsolete,
as far as your staff are concerned, as a Model T Ford.
final thought. When I eventually manage to find somebody to sell me a
scanner, will I need to buy a brace of scuzzy cards, or will the one do
bother to tell me - I dont think I want to know