I got a phone call from my son last week. Most calls start with something like “Hi, umm, would you happen to have an extra modem cable around and maybe a couple of empty Zips; oh, and you got a SCSI 25/50 I could borrow?” After that, it’s all technical.
As a child, this boy lived buried beneath piles of monster comics, King Kong posters and 8 mm film, dreaming dreams of special effects. Now he lives entangled in a welter of wires, cables, SyJets, null modems and external drives linking an Amiga, a Performa 6116, a close-out PowerBase and a used Pentium to make those dreams come to life. LightWave and an Amiga 3000 changed his destiny.
Self taught, he has made up in dedication and fanaticism for a rather late start. We both touched our first computers at the same time: Summer of ’92. But, while I gingerly explored cut & paste and played with my screensavers, he surged bravely forward.
“You touched your Motherboard!” Winter ’92. I was filled with awe. “My son actually touched his motherboard !” I bragged to totally disinterested, not to mention, discombobulated friends and family. “But what, exactly, do you do ?” I asked.
“3D modeling,” he said. Do you know what it’s like to announce to the teacher’s lounge that your son does 3D modeling in LA? I eventually learned to say something about computer animation and/or maybe digital rendering which, if not quite right, had a more respectable ring to it. “Like M&Ms and Polar Bears,” I would add as clarification.
Now, back home again, he has been given what almost amounts to a blank canvas. A local public access channel was sorely in need of a face lift. Paid for 40 hours a week, he puts in a 100, designing logos, lead-ins, programs and bumpers. His small apartment is a one-man studio. He sleeps, if he sleeps, strung between wires to the sound of machines rendering.
Currently, if I’ve got the technical stuff right, the 6116 (with a Newer accelerator and a bunch of RAM) occupies the small dinette table and is his audio station.The inexpensive CyberSound Studio 3.0 (Invision, $99.95, mini-midi keyboard included) provides his accompaniments. End tables and chairs support scanner, printer and stacks of software. A banquet table holds the PowerBase with a miroMotion card as his primary video and design machine, the Amiga does whatever Amigas do and the Pentium… well, the Pentium was the problem.
Intel machines apparently age faster than Macs and it seems the Pentium wasn’t pulling its weight in table space. As the computer had been custom- made without a sound card, it was logical to add a SoundBlaster to help beef up the audio department and let the 6116 take over more of the midnight renderings. And so the nightmare began.
Why is it that sound cards and Windows have a natural aversion to each other? The installation of a standard sound card so overwhelmed its .ini’s, .exe’s and .vdx’s that Windows lost track of its .dll’s. In other words, the audio scrambled the video and Windows sent forth the dreaded “.avi is linked to missing export avi.32dll”. And when links are lost, Windows is clueless.
So, heart in hand, son, Mac and Netscape braved the terrors of the Microsoft Home Page in search of solace and maybe a new driver. And there it all began. Son, being sensibly paranoid about surfing the Web, Netscape had orders to ‘accept no cookies’. Microsoft, being surreptitiously programmed to own the Web, had other ideas. ‘No Cookie, No Comee’ seems to be motto in Microsoft Land. And while son and Netscape were slugging it out with Willy’s digital minions, Explorer was busily downloading itself behind his back. Cookies and all.
One crashed Mac. One mad son. One furious phone call. “Warn the world,” he said. “That ***** Microsoft just tried a hostile take-over on my Mac! And if that ***** Bill Gates thinks he can eat my Mac and have it too, he can just….” The rest was rather rude.
But it isn’t only the Mac world that is in danger. The Windows crowd had best beware as well. While installing “Barney” for the three year old on the IBM, Explorer insinuated itself onto my desktop. ‘Installation was successful,’ it said. ‘In order to visit Barney’s Parent Room, Microsoft Explorer must be installed.’
“But I don’t want Microsoft’s ***** Explorer!” I say. ” I don’t even want to visit Barney’s Parent Room!” But the dialog box has me trapped. It leaves me with only two options – click OK or pull the plug. Well, what would you do? Little Squirt was standing beside me chanting “Barney! Barney!”. I clicked OK.
Still, maybe we have the last laugh. The IBM is 30 feet from the nearest phone jack. And three year olds can’t read. Even so, if you are cruising the net or just installing software, watch out. Any day now you may join the growing ranks of computer users lamenting as one, “That ***** Microsoft just ate my Mac!” Cookies anyone?
Susan Howerter (email@example.com)