Error, Does Not Compute by C.L. Beck

© C.L. Beck 2008
(Keywords: computer, quill pen, error, computer error, error message, mouse, cheese, stack, programmer, hen, rooster, C.L. Beck, writer, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

Despite a nostalgic bent for old-fashioned writer’s tools—the quill pen always looked cute to me—I can’t seriously argue that any previous inventions were ever as handy as the computer.

With a computer, a writer can whip out a story in no time, use grammar and spell check to improve the manuscript, and then delete any errors in the blink of an eye. It can be saved as a file on the hard drive, a CD or on a zip drive. Come flood, earthquake, or mud slide, multiple backups ensure all is not lost.

Armed with that knowledge and counting on the computer's speed, I sat down one night not long ago to work on one of my humor columns. Despite the fact that the clock showed only two hours before midnight, I figured I could whip it out in no time.

I wrote the first two paragraphs in thirty seconds and paused for a minute.

The only sound in the room was the quiet of my thoughts (which included a nagging feeling that I should do a backup) and the whirring of the computer fan in the night. A feeling of bliss permeated the air. That is, until an error message appeared out of nowhere:

ERROR: e4G@fdkcokpv^&589yRG j=+-uHG683{=+#BFGvilxxya]404
We know you don’t understand this. We did that on purpose. Click OK.

Where had the message come from? Were there little men in my machine who knew when I made an error? What error had I made? And why?

Thinking I must have hit a wrong key, I moved my mouse to highlight and delete the message, only to get another:

MOUSE ERROR: Mouse was moved without permission. Windows must be restarted for the move to take effect. Click OK.

Knowing my word processing program had done an automatic backup, I followed the instructions and restarted the computer. In the two hours it took the infernal machine to re-boot, I could have written the column by hand.

When I finally got back to my word processing program, it had backed up my text in Chinese and I was ready to shoot the thing. It must have sensed my hostility, because it sent another message:

INTERNAL ERROR: Stack overflow. Internal stack has come unstacked. Click OK.

There's a stack? A stack of what? I was beginning to think it could only be a stack of mentally unbalanced programmers.

Fidgeting at the thought of a discombobulated stack, I accidentally bumped my mouse. My computer blinked, hiccupped, and all my Chinese writing disappeared. I would have throttled the stupid mouse, except I was afraid if I moved it, it would eat my cheese.

Using stealth, I started typing all over again. Just as I began wrapping up my thoughts, I got another error message:

ERROR, ERROR, ERROR: User has made another error. Replace user. Click OK.

Replace user?

Every writer has her own ethical guideline to follow. LDS writers have an even stricter code. Believe me when I tell you it's for that reason alone I didn't call the computer a “bleeping so and so” when it suggested replacing me.

By now the sun was rising, peeking over the ridge. I picked up my computer, lugged it outside and threw it into the henhouse, where it made a fine nesting box for Henny Penny.

Then I hunted for the old rooster. I was certain he wouldn’t mind donating a tail feather so I could make a quill pen.

What's playing on my radio: Nothing
What's playing on my TV: Nothing.

What's playing in my head: Nothing. I'm just a big blank today:)

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Unknown said...

Oh, the things you and my mother could reminisce over. Thanks for laugh. I needed it.

Cindy Beck, author said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cindy Beck, author said...

Glad you enjoyed it. Really, in our hearts don't we all believe that computers are trying to take over the world? :)

You have a link at your blog for a back up system that I'm dying to try because ... well ... my computer hates me! And one day its stack will overflow. Again! :)

Thanks for stopping by, Candace

Anonymous said...

Hilarious! And I thought my computer was the only one who threw error messages up on the screen just for fun!

Cindy Beck, author said...

Oh my heck, your computer and mine must be related! :)

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I've left a few thoughts at your Wendsdayschild blog site.

Congratulations on the newest member of your family. That's quite a story!

Shirley Bahlmann said...

Ha, ha, haaaa! It's a good thing it wasn't your writing class assignment that got chicken poo-poo on it!

Triple Nickel said...

I am writingly informing you of compoter superioritee. WEe shal overcame.
Love & Kisses,
The Terminator

Anna Maria Junus said...

I've seen those messages too!

And yes, in spite of the ability to back up, I lost my entire rewrite on a book.


Cindy Beck, author said...

Ohhhhh, you cut me to the quick, suggesting I would ever turn in an assignment to you with chicken poo on it! Ha ha. :) Chocolate smears, maybe, but chicken poo? Never!

Thanks for stopping and commenting. Loved your entry at your blog about the young woman in a wheel chair. Very touching.

Cindy Beck, author said...

Triple Nickel
Wow, you signed that, "Love and Kisses" from the Terminator.

I always thought you were just some guy out in cyber space, but maybe you're really Arnold, the governor of CA?

Naw, 'cuz then you would have said, "I'll be back."

Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

Cindy Beck, author said...

Oh no! You lost an entire rewrite? That is so unfair! I believe you'd better beat your computer with a stick until it spits those words back out for you! (Like that's really going to help:)

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.