The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

1 August 2006

Vengeful little paperweight

"Why do you name your cars?" people occasionally ask me. And typically they give me the classic Spockian eyebrow raise when I explain, "I don't name them. I live with them for a while, and eventually they tell me."

A common response to this boils down to "You shouldn't anthropomorphize mere machinery," to which I reply, "If they object, they'll say so."

If this seems like imputing some form of intelligence to mere hardware, listen up.

About twelve years ago, we took delivery of a nice console printer, which was assigned number 2. It did far spiffier graphics than the machine it replaced, at somewhere between two and three times the speed. And it performed valiantly — until the moment when a newer model was moved in beside it at the number-1 spot.

Number 2 was furious. First its powered stack mechanism began acting up, shredding parts as though there were no tomorrow. It got so bad that one year while I was on a World Tour the sysadmin summoned tech support and bade them rip that frigging stacker out of the box and throw it away.

Which they did. Meanwhile, the machine was beginning to suffer memory problems, as in "Oh, I just lost all my 183 different configuration settings." These could be keyed back in, albeit tediously, but eventually Number 2 figured out that this was extending its useful life, and began burning up system boards, which meant that not only did you have to rekey all the configs, but you had to reload the microcode — from a floppy disk read by a notebook computer connected to the machine's otherwise-unused parallel port.

To make sure its appetite for boards was addressed, Number 2 devised a system whereby on every third power-up it would stick halfway through the process. I don't know how many boards for this model actually exist on earth, but I doubt seriously there's one we never used; at one point we were going through one or two a week.

Eventually tech support figured out that for their three grand a year, they'd put roughly $150,000 worth of parts into a $15,000 printer, and they threw up their hands and begged, "Please, no more."

A new printer was ordered, and old Number 2 was powered off and left there to collect dust and random paper boxes. Scheduled date for the new box: 1 August 2006.

This morning I started powering up Number 1 when a message came across the console: "Failure, Printer 2."

"How in the hell can it be failing? It's not even varied on!"

Despite a lack of life signs, somehow something got across its section of the controller, and onto Number 1, which — wait for it — had lost all of its configuration settings. It took the better part of half a day to get it back to normal.

I swear, the miserable little washing machine was laughing at us.

And no, the new box didn't arrive today.

Posted at 6:07 PM to PEBKAC


**sniff** I sure miss Bob. **sniff**

Posted by: Joe at 9:01 PM on 1 August 2006

Perhaps we should contrive to introduce Gwendolyn to:

-- Mercy (my SUV),
-- Travis (my lawn tractor),
-- Samantha (my TV),
-- Brewster (my break-front),
-- Chandler (my chain saw),
-- Tula (my hot tub),
-- Sophia (my sofa),
-- and Dominik (my hassock).

I mean, Jeez! Why not name things? The named things in our household are well cared for! The unnamed things...better not go there.

Note, incidentally, that I have NOT named my computers.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at 3:55 AM on 2 August 2006

All i can think of is the Twilight Zone episode with the slot machine whispering "Fraaaaaaaaankliiiiiin"

Posted by: Dwayne "the canoe guy" at 8:08 AM on 2 August 2006

I once had a car named "Grendel". Trust me, the name fit.

Posted by: unimpressed at 4:10 PM on 2 August 2006

Oh, the new box showed up today; formal installation (which, by the Geneva Convention or something, requires a true-blue IBM Suit) will be Monday morning.

Posted by: CGHill at 6:17 PM on 3 August 2006

You know, only WOMEN name their cars. Never met a guy who called a car anything other than "the Buick" or, "that piece of s###."

Is a confession in the offing, "Charles"?

Posted by: John Salmon at 12:57 AM on 4 August 2006

Like I said, I don't name them: I live with them a while, and eventually they tell me.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:14 AM on 4 August 2006

Do they talk to you at idle (presumably easier to hear) or on the highway?

And, does the DSM-III have a category for people whose cars, ahh, talk?

Posted by: John Salmon at 3:32 PM on 5 August 2006