September 4, 2003


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To many people the so called “smiley” can take the place of any common place emotion — being happy, about to cry, wanting someone to put their money where their mouth is — but for me, the smiley is able to evoke the emotions I have toward my computer. If you’ve ever noticed there are really only two smileys which connote happiness. There’s the small smile: “Thank god my internet is working” and the large smile “Thank god my internet is working long enough to take me to” On the other hand there are 10, count em 10, smileys which are used to show anger toward a computer, such as the screaming face “Why can’t I drop this @&#^$* class?” Or there’s the ever-popular crying face, otherwise known as “This world is too cruel, all I ever wanted was to save my documents before my computer crashed.” Welcome to the world that is broken Ethernet cards and busted motherboards, that is add-drop the day before classes begin and the blaster worm. Welcome to the world of computers.

Before college most average adolescents use the computer for instant messenger, research papers paraphrased from Barron’s Booknotes and the occasional “forward” promising to help you marry your crush in five years as long as you send it to at least seven people by the following Friday. As these adolescents grow up and move on to college, for instance our own Cornell University, the students begin to realize what amazing opportunities their computers hold for them. They can make charts (ooh color coded), presentations (with moving graphics, oh my!), and even save 300 dollars by having an entire textbook on the web. All of this looks fine and dandy in print, but the working model isn’t quite the same (I’m suddenly reminded of a good old-fashioned game of Mousetrap — why couldn’t the marble make the gate fall on the silly mouse??) I am always at the receiving end of these meltdowns. I could never trap my sister’s mouse and my computer is constantly sending me errors from “system manager failure” to “Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah I’ll get you my pretty and your little word documents too!”

I’m tempted to blame my ill-fortune with computers on Cornell. I know countless students who have lost internet the night before course-enroll, or who have downloaded an email from a friendly neighbor claiming to contain some “Great Pics.” In fact, I have yet to meet a Cornell student whose computer has been in working order since they arrived on campus. Can we blame the Bear Access institution? Could it be that the little hot pepper from project SALSA is really trying to hurt us? Doubtful, I’ve heard that the sombrero-wearing pepper is more of a peaceful species. If it isn’t the peppers, maybe it’s the teachers. Maybe our poor computers can’t handle all those word documents and pie charts. Or maybe, it’s the illusive group referred to only as “they.” As in “They put add-drop online,” “They emailed me saying that I need to register for my intro classes and I’m a fifth year senior,” and “They still haven’t replaced the shady chicken at the Terrace.”

Not too many things can be said about “them.” Most people who complain about “them” mysteriously disappear, or worse, their documents mysteriously disappear. What I can tell you is to back up your work, save a copy of your buddy list, try not to annoy any peppers, and never ever talk about “them” in front of a working computer.

Archived article by Alyssa Cohen