Tuesday, October 04, 2005
At the dawn of the age of informatics, computers were huge electro-mechanical machines that filled entire buildings. Before the advent of transistors and silicon chips, one’s and zeroes where formed by mechanical switches, that opened and closed. Sometimes, things wouldn’t work, and then the computer specialists – a whole team was needed to maintain and operate one of these – had to find out where and what the problem was. Often, trouble was caused by insects, who crawled under, over and between the racks of equipment. They would get between the two contacts of a switch, and when it closed, their bodies got stuck in between, preventing the current to flow. Hence, we got the term ‘computer bugs’ or ‘bugs’, to indicate that there are problems with the hard- or software.
The previous weekend, I decided to play a computer game. Probably most of you will know Sim City, a game in which you – like a god – build a city and decide on the welfare of thousands, even millions of people. It kind of satisfies my megalomaniac tendencies without causing real damage to this part of Europe. Although it’s a rather tranquil game, without constant explosions and dazzling sound effects, it has background music and some sound. But when I started it, there was just an eerie silence.
So, what does one do in such a situation? Curse Bill Gates to start with, of course. Then check the settings, which all looked OK to me. I hadn’t installed anything recently, so it couldn’t be that. A virus perhaps? McAfee couldn’t find anything, and the computer worked perfectly for the rest. No strange delays or anything. It should work fine, by the way, since I recently installed a new motherboard, a new processor, a heap of memory and subsequently re-installed Windows and all the rest again. So what was the problem then?
It dawned on me when I saw a cable move. Which is not something you expect a cable to do all of its own. Snijeg [Snijek], our white kitten, was under my desk playing with the cables. So I checked the speaker cable, and saw that cut in half. One of our two Agents of Satan, Snijeg or his accomplice Macka [Mah-tch-kah], had bitten right through this cable, but others were damaged too. I was very close to having a cordless mouse for instance, although I doubt if it would still work. Most worryingly, my network cable to the broadband modem showed signs of attacks. This cable crosses three rooms and two walls, one of which is very, very thick. It took me a lot of effort to lay this cable and tuck it neatly away. If their gnawing permanently damages this one, I can spend two days laying a new one.
No-one ever warned me of this danger. I even doubt if the ICT business is aware of this weakness. Neither Microsoft, nor Symantec, nor McAfee give warning or have products that can detect how susceptible your computer is to these types of computer hazards. Since apparently, I have discovered this problem, I can also name it. So next to the computer bug, we now have the Computer Cat.
P.S.: for those wondering about the evolution of my health: My troth is a bit better now, not so sore anymore. Which means I can yell at the cats again. I went to the doctor and she told me to rest and swallow a container of drugs. Either they make me very woozy, or I should spend my days like the cats, sleeping.