66 - A Short Story - Welcome to the 22nd Century

October 4, 2020

"Seriously? Again? You piece of crap! Why? Why do you always do this?" Jack was yelling at his laptop, "Damn it! Always at the worst possible moments!" The laptop, not Jack, decided it was time for a reboot and that pissed him off.

While he waited for the laptop to restart itself he picked up his cell phone and opened an app that checks his heart rate. He used it for tracking his heart rate before, during, and after his runs. And sometimes when he was waiting for the laptop to restart itself. The app opened, started the heart rate scan and then an advertisement popped up.

"Seriously? You stupid app! What's with all these crap ads? And now the ad won't close! Crap! It's all crap!" He wasn't getting along with his devices this morning, and this would repeat a couple more times before the day ended.

"Denise, why is all the tech we have to use such crap?" he asked his wife in frustration while they ate dinner. Their son, Raully, and daughter, Rhonda, twins, were listening.

"Dad," Raully said, "it's not all crap, what's the problem? Maybe I can help you?"

"Sure, son, you can help, who am I? Some helpless old guy who knows nothing about technology?" asked Jack.

"I didn't mean that," replied Raully, "it's just that sometimes things..."

Jack interrupted his son, "Don't give me a lecture about tech, okay? Have you forgotten that I'm the one with a Master's and a Doctorate in technology?"

"No, excuse me, Dad, sorry for interrupting and trying to help," Raully returned to eating his roast beef.

"You know what else is crap? The microwave oven. Yep, that's right. Who on earth needs a microwave oven that can talk to someone, somewhere out on the internet? The whole reason they add that so-called feature is so it will break and you'll have to pay big dollars to get it repaired or even bigger dollars to buy another. Why? So you can have your oven schedule hacked by someone out on the net. The same for the fridge! For god's sake, appliances don't need to be talking to anyone anywhere, especially not to some unknown hackers." Jack continued his rant against connected devices that are everywhere in our homes these days.

Rhonda stopped him, "Dad, the whole point of all those connected appliances is so you can control them with your phone when you're not home. Then, when you get home whatever you put in the oven will be cooked when you arrive."

Jack replied, "Oh, so when I leave for work in the morning, say 6:30 in the morning, I put the chicken in the oven. Then it sits there all day, spoiling, until it starts cooking at 5pm. Then we can eat the now-cooked spoiled chicken and we can all get sick. Yeehaw!"

"Okay, enough already, Jack. What do you think we should do about it?" Denise finally broke into the conversation. "Seriously, dear, you complain about these connected appliances, but aren't they all connected these days?"

"Well," Jack thought for a moment, "I think we can find some of the normal appliances over at that store on Burk Street. Remember that store?"

"Oh, the store that sells all the vintage and antique stuff," said Raully, "Sure, buy some old used crap that nobody knows how to fix anymore. And, if you do find someone who can fix it you'll pay twice as much for them. That's great, Dad."

"Raully, I don't like your attitude," said Jack, "you can stop talking and eat your dinner, okay?" Turning to his wife he continued, "This weekend you and I will go out and about and see if we can find any proper appliances anywhere, and not used ones. I know they're still available, they're just not easy to find."

Raully said, "Dad, it seems you want to live in the twentieth or early twenty-first centuries. We're way beyond those times now. You need to join the world as it is today and get your head out of the past."

Jack glared at his son, you could almost see the smoke coming out of his ears in anger, but he held his breath, let it out slowly, and let what his son just said just waft away like the steam coming off his coffee.

Rhonda got the final word in, "Welcome to the 22nd century, Dad".

***

At work, the next day Jack was up to his elbows in computer servers and routers and too many cables of all colors which appeared to be the most disorganized mess imaginable. But there is rhyme and reason for the color coding, and Jack could tell you what every cable was for and what was happening at the other end.

"Pete, what do you think about all these connected devices we have these days?" asked Jack to his work partner who was crouched down behind a rack of backup servers.

"Well, I guess they're okay," he replied, "We don't have any problems with ours. Are you having problems with yours?"

"No, well, not all of 'em, right now just the microwave. But I mean in general, do you think all that connectivity is necessary? Appliances, Pete, do they really need to be connected to the net?" asked Jack.

"I think it makes a lot of our mundane daily tasks easier," said Pete.

"You sound like a commercial," said Jack, "I want your honest opinion, not some sales promo crap you heard on a commercial."

They continued this conversation for some time and eventually got the new rack of backup servers wired and operating. This is where Jack felt at home - in a room full of racks of computers, little lights blinking, some green, some white, and occasionally a few red.

"Okay, that should do it, let's go back to the office and run some tests and get the final configurations set up," said Jack. The two locked the door, walked down the hall to their office, and got to work setting up the configurations.

Jack sat down at his desk and started to enter commands on his laptop, and, "Shit! What the hell?"

"What? What's wrong? I know I got all the cables connected right. What's wrong?" asked a suddenly worried Pete.

"No, not that, this damn laptop just crashed! What is it with laptops? Can't they make a laptop that actually works without crashing at least once a day?" asked the frustrated IT expert. "My god this stuff is crap, laptops, appliances, cell phones..."

"Look, Jack, it's not all crap," interrupted Pete, "apparently just the stuff you buy." He laughed at the situation and how easily Jack gets frustrated by all the tech in his daily life, "Jack, you're an IT expert, highly educated in anything and everything in this industry. Why do you let these little things bother you so much?"

"Because it's all crap, that's why," Jack complained, "the servers and routers and all this stuff here, no problem, it all works. But all the other, lesser tech, that stuff really irritates me, that stuff locks up, it reboots, it crashes, it talks to who knows out on the net. I don't like it Pete. I want a laptop that actually lets me work for days without it rebooting, I want apps on my phone without ads, and without ads that don't respond, I want appliances that don't need to talk to the world. Is that asking for too much?"

"Jack, isn't it about time you joined the 22nd century?" said Pete.

"Why's everyone reminding me what century this is? Of course I know that, my god, I'm not an idiot!" Jack stormed out of the office.

As Jack started walking away Pete continued, "Jack, my man, you have to get your mind out of 1990. That was a long time before we were born."

Jack went down the hall to the lunch room, poured a cup of coffee, while his laptop restarted.

"Hi, Jack, how's everything going?" asked Martin, the CEO of the company.

"Oh, fine. We're getting the new backup servers online today, remember we talked about them last week," said Jack, sipping on his coffee.

"Yes, excellent, I'm glad to hear that. You know, the weather forecast doesn't look good for a few days, could be very high winds and power outages," Martin said.

"Yeah, I heard that. Don't worry about a thing, sir, we're covered for such emergencies," said Jack, and he thought, "Doesn't he know we have a backup generator good for 3 days of power?" He caught his own thoughts just about to think, "He needs to join the 22nd century".

"Well, I better get back to my desk," said Martin and he left with a cup of coffee and a bagel. He continued, "I want to back up my files in case there's a power outage."

Jack said, "Yeah, that's a good idea, sir," then he picked up a couple bagels, refilled his coffee cup, and returned to his office where he found his laptop stuck in the middle of restarting, "What the hell is wrong with that piece of crap?" he asked Pete, pointing to his laptop.

Pete looked over at the laptop, saw that it was locked-up again, and said, "You probably should wipe the hard drive and reinstall everything." Then he turned back to his own laptop.

"Seriously, the answer is always wipe the drive and reinstall. I'm so tired of that crap. It's the same with cell phones. Why can't they just make the software work properly?" Jack pressed the button, maybe a little harder than necessary, to get it to restart.

"Hitting it won't help," Pete was laughing at his friend, and thinking, "Jack, the IT professional and tech hater. What kind of a combination is that?"

This time the laptop restarted successfully and Jack was able to get some work done, and the two of them got the new backup servers online and running without any further problems.

***

That night at dinner Denise asked about his day, "How was work? Did you get the new backup system working? That's what it is, right?"

"Yeah, the backup servers," Jack said, "There are 7 of them. And yes, we got them all online and functioning, and my stupid laptop in the office was crashing while I was trying to do my job."

Raully chimed in, "Well, maybe you need to just wipe the hard drive and reinstall everything. It's no big deal. You have all your data files backup somewhere, right?"

"Raully," Jack started, "Don't go there, son, you hear me? Not tonight."

"Okay, Dad," Raully said as he gave a little smile to his sister.

Denise said, "Maybe we should go shopping this weekend, sweetheart, we can look at microwaves, and maybe laptops. What do you think?"

"Well, I suppose. I do want to buy all new appliances, with no internet connectivity," Jack said.

"Wait a moment," said Denise, "I didn't say anything about all the appliances, only the microwave. Maybe next month we can look at buying one other, and so on."

"Oh, yeah, that's probably a better plan," said Jack.

"Can I get a new laptop, too?" asked Rhonda.

"Oh, jeez, of course at least one of you would ask that," said Jack.

Denise said, "We'll see, sweetie, let's take care of these two other issues first, okay?" She looked at her husband as she said that and she winked at him.

"Okay, that's cool, at least it wasn't a No," said Rhonda.

***

Over the course of the next few months, the kitchen appliances were slowly replaced with new appliances that did not include internet connectivity. That task alone was very time consuming due to the fact that such appliances are extremely rare. Nowadays, whoever heard of non-connected appliances? That was the typical question Jack got from the various sales people. And there were also new laptops for Jack and the kids, and a new tablet for Denise, all modern devices that met the current standards, which was particularly appealing to the kids.

Denise loved her new kitchen, but, "You know, it would be nice to know what's inside the fridge, or not inside it, when I'm at the store doing the shopping..."

Jack interrupted her, "Don't start with that again, we're not going to get anything internet connected other than the laptops."

Jack was happy with his new laptop, but still finds his phone apps a pain in the ass; his laptop, even though it's new, still crashes occasionally, but that's related to the operating system, not the hardware, and that bothers him even more because there's nothing he can do about that.

Jack, the master of technology who prefers the technology of the turn of the 21st century, and also hates the latest and greatest tech, and probably always will. Welcome to the 22nd century, Jack.