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COMPUTERS LET YOU WASTE TIME EFFICIENTLY

How computers have streamlined my life:

8 a.m. - Boot up. I love my machine: 486 microprocessor, 8 MB ram, I'm armed - a hundred times more versatile than I was with a typewriter. If Hemingway had a Compaq Prolinea, he'd have written twice as many books.8:00:20 - In Windows. For years I've been trying to get efficient; Windows is going to do it. Instead of a dozen projects lost in neglected files and piles, I've got everything on one screen. Today, I'll do a newspaper column, finish a book proposal, script an idea for a TV commentary and write a free-lance piece. A lot to juggle, but with Windows, I can blaze between each with the click of the Alt-Tab combination.

8:10 - You can't be efficient unless you're organized, and I've got the tool: a computer calender. PIMs, they're called - Personal Information Managers. Think I'll peruse my To-Do List first. Hmm, top-item: "Organize organizer." If there's one task computer-efficient types love, it's making our computers more efficient. So I adjust my PIM's To-Do list, Goals, Turn to COMPUTERS, next page List, Calls List, then discover I can load anniversaries, like family birthdays. By the time I look up, it's 90 minutes later, but time well spent. I'm organized now.

9:45 - You don't want to do a column until you've got a fix on the news, but no problem; a few keystrokes, and I'm online. Great - I've even got e-mail waiting. From my brother in Chicago. He's writing to tell me his PIM is better than mine. No way. I spend 15 minutes writing back why he's wrong, then wait for a response. No response. Guess he's not online, so I call and tell him he's got e-mail waiting. He hangs up and soon, e-mails me back. We do this for over an hour. I love computers.

11:00 - Before perusing the online news, I decide to ramp up my modem connection from 9,600 to 14,400, in order to speed browsing. I try, get error messages, switch to the online tech-help area, get instructions, tinker some more, but finally find there's no high-speed line from my city yet. I'll try tomorrow. Meanwhile, I stop by an online chat room where two dozen people can simultaneously type notes back and forth. For kicks, I try Teen Nook, where the messages are as follows: "Any California boys here?" "How about a Bud break?" And: "Bye, goin' surfin." Still, I'm intrigued and hang in for a while.

11:55 - Being mature, I decide to find a chat room my own age. Here it is - the Thirty-Something room. No - I find another called Over 40, and sign on. Suddenly, a box appears on my screen titled "Instant Message" from a person named Valerie who asks if I have children. Hey, that's neat - you can now have one-on-one discussions here. I message her back and it turns out she's a 50ish mother of two in New York who teaches special ed. She teaches me computer signs for smiling and frowning, to be read sideways as follows. (: and ):

1:05 p.m. - I at last go to the news areas and catch up on the latest O.J. details. Then I see it. The sign for the Internet. Can't resist. I spend an hour trying to navigate it, at last finding the access code for the White House Screen. Wow. I'm in the White House, at least virtually. It takes long minutes to download the screen. What I get is a picture of Bill and Hillary waving. Cool. But I've got a column to write.

2:15 - As I Alt-Tab toward my word-processor, I decide to peruse Quicken, the money planning package my wife has been using. I learn we are spending more than we're making. This inspires the Provider side of me, and I click to my free-lance project so I can make side money. Only by now, my column deadline is at hand.

3:00 - I write frantically under the gun, with but two side trips to the online service, including a final nosy glance into the Teen Chat room.

5:30 - Column finally done. I'm exhausted. Time to call it a day. But first I go back to my PIM to cross off all the To-Do projects I've completed. Not many, I'm afraid. In fact, only the column. I move everything else forward a day, and before turning off the machine, a thought occurs to me.

I realize now why Ernest Hemingway was so prolific. He didn't have a computer to distract him.