Opinion

Crashed computer brings life to a halt

Wally’s World

Al Bogdan taught me how to type on a manual, Royal typewriter in my Junior year of high school. In retrospect, that was probably the most important thing I learned in my three years at EHS.

My first “hi-tech” leap came with the electric typewriter. What an improvement! Especially the ability to read a sentence or two before they were actually typed.

“Holy smokes!” I said aloud. “What will they come up with next?”

The answer, of course, was the computer. My friends, this damned thing never stops amazing me. Depending upon your profession or trade, computers may not influence you much beyond the ATM – but if you’re a writer, the advent of this shelf of circuit boards is positively astounding.

So my computer went gunnysack last week. All it would do is turn itself on and off.

“AOL is shutting down.”

“Access denied.”

“AOL will automatically re-start your computer.”

“An error has been detected.”

“AOL is shutting down.”

My friends, I lapsed into a catatonic state. I had absolutely no idea what to do with myself. I literally couldn’t function. Fortunately, after a few drinks in the Mint, I got a handle on things again.

Anyway, I carried this useless pile of junk down to the nerds in Skynet. In the better part of a day, they slapped it back in shape. Intrigued by the business and the people working there, I joined Charles (Chuck) Bender, owner of the operation, for a cup of coffee in the Lindon Book Store.

Chuck came from sunny California, but settled around the mossy Seattle region in 1988. He founded Skynet in 2003 and claims to be more businessman than computer geek. Still, in the brief conversation we had, his hi-tech lingo was such that I only understood half of what he said – and I’m sure he was talking down to me. I suppose you’d call him a nerd, a geek or whatever but, as my past experience dictates, his persona really isn’t so strange; that is, he’s quite sociable and would surely enjoy a drink or two in the Martini Bar.

Chuck feels the computer and the evolving Internet are the most significant, revolutionary innovations in the last 100 years, mostly because they greatly expand the knowledge of the world’s population. He claims the information learned and retained by the whole of humanity is doubling every five years. (How one goes about measuring such a thing is, in itself, pretty mindboggling.) Cars and TV have produced revolutionary changes in lifestyle and entertainment, but the Internet commands and supports the entire world’s economy. In a heartbeat it transfers $500 billion dollars between banks or hands you a hundred bucks at the local ATM.

Which brings up a rather scary scenario. What if some genius kook or terrorist (and make no mistake, they’re working on it) or half-baked 12-year-old develops a virus that can destroy the financial underpinnings of the Western World? Do you doubt that could happen? Well, think again.

Of course, the CIA and Wall Street financial giants have erected incredible barriers to such a doomsday virus; for instance, Chuck spoke of a “100-year-firewall” that allegedly would take an “outsider” 100 years to penetrate. However, these high-powered systems still remain vulnerable, particularly to a privileged inside who goes bad. And what would be the consequences if some long-term, deep-undercover spy or terrorist gained access to these top-secret, cryptographic, multi-linguistic passwords?

Don’t even think about it, friends. You don’t want to know.

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