The Long, Sad Story of Professor Addington's Adventures in Macintoshland

Once upon a time there was a math professor named Susan Addington. She was queen of a subdomain of over 60 Sun workstations. She even had a laptop SPARC station (which required a rather large lap).

But she was not completely happy. As she did more and more work with teachers, the teachers would give her files she could not read on her Suns. People would send her spreadsheet files full of funny coded characters that could not be deciphered unless the reader had paid a fee to the Microsoft Ogre for the special decoding device. Prof. Addington offered to share her free public domain spreadsheet program that produced text files, but the teachers said, "What's perl? What's grep? What's awk? We don't speak those languages. By the way, here's a hypercard stack."

One day, Prof. Addington was about to leave on an important trip, and was complaining to her fairy godmother about her rather large laptop SPARC. "It's so heavy!" she whined. "And when you add the power adapter, an external modem, and several other dinguses, it needs its own luggage carrier."

The fairy godmother waved her magic wand and said, "Get yourself a new one. Get the best. You need something light that will work without fail."

So Prof. Addington immediately called the Palace of Instant Gratification, MacWarehouse, and ordered a PowerBook 540c. The helpful and cheery sales person assured her that a 540c would ship itself to her that night, and would arrive the very next morning!

The computer did not arrive the next morning, or the morning after that. After many phone calls, MacWarehouse admitted that the 540c was on backorder and that they did not know when any computers would actually be available. "But we did send the software and computer bag you ordered."

Prof. Addington refused to accept the software and bag, since they were pointless without the computer, and put a curse on MacWarehouse.

The fairy godmother's computer minion was sent on a quest for a 540c. But after a day of searching, he discovered that there was not a 540c to be had in the entire kingdom. Apple was about to announce a New Model momentarily, in a matter of days.

So Prof. Addington anxiously waited for the announcement. She waited for weeks. Finally, on August 29, the announcement burst forth upon the world. The New Models would be known as 5300. They would have fast PowerPC chips, lots of RAM, and big hard disks. So she ran down to her college bookstore to order a 5300ce.

"Not so fast!" said the guardian of the computer section. "You have to pay first. That will be $5,900, and the tax brings it to $6,300 and change. You can't even get on the waiting list unless you pay." So Prof. Addington whipped out her magic plastic card and charged it. The computer guardian said that it might take a week to arrive, or maybe two or three. Prof. Addington hoped it would arrive before she left for her sabbatical at the end of September.

She waited. The computer didn't come. She drove across the country. The computer had not arrived while she was on the road. She waited some more. The computer didn't come. Every two weeks she called the computer guardian, who had no news to report. Professor Addington, being a mathematician, posed herself the problem: If I had invested $6,000 in a 3-month CD paying 5% APR, how much money would I have made? Winter came. Snow fell. The temperature fell far below zero. Finally, the joyous news came: the computer had arrived in the bookstore and would be shipped to Prof. Addington.

On Dec. 11, Prof. Addington got her computer--Oh frabjous day, callooh, callay! With trembling hands, she took it out of the box. The first thing she tried was a game that was already installed--Spin Doctor. Nothing happened. The machine had frozen! She learned the secret control key sequence, then the location of the reset button. So she next tried the solitare games. They worked great!

Next she tried installing the lingua franca all of her correspondents used: Word and Excel from the Microsoft Ogre. She started up Word, and it crashed! Fortunately, she was by now familiar with restarting techniques. She tried it again, and it crashed again. After a third try, she switched to Excel. It performed nicely until she clicked the button for Technical Support. Ha, ha! The Ogre had tricked her again and crashed her system.

She installed a few more pieces of software, and avoided Microsoft products. Every now and then a program would crash, saying "The application unknown has quit because of ...", mentioning various error numbers.

Prof. Addington might have given up in despair were it not for the presence of a gallant knight who had done battle with hundreds of Macintoshes in the past. He checked many things--turning off virtual memory, checking control panels, turning off unnecessary extensions. The crashes came more frequently. Sometimes the machine would refuse to boot with extensions; sometimes it would boot with extensions on after that, sometimes not. An error of type 11 was the most common diagnostic.

At about this time Prof. Addington decided to consult the oracle at 1-800-SOS-APPL. Though this usually required a long wait listening to sleazy Christmas Muzak, she did it because the knight had run out of things to try. The first oracular spokesman blamed the problems on the Microsoft Ogre. So Prof. Addington removed everything from Microsoft, right down to the last extension. Nothing improved.

The second oracular spokesperson chastised her for not running the Floppy Disk Maker immediately and for rashly installing software. So she ran Floppy Disk Maker so that she could reinstall the System. After having the installer quit twice without finishing, she made a set of System Disks from the knight's 5300, which was working fine.

The third oracular spokesperson suggested doing a Clean Install of a Full Backup, and if that failed, to reformat the hard disk from the Disk Tools diskette. Prof. Addington tried an install from the other 5300's backups. Now her computer would not boot at all, with or without extensions. There appeared on the screen an ominous wiggling blank box, yawning emptily like a sepulchre.

The knight dug out the Disk Tools, used it to boot the machine, and found a System and Finder in a temporary folder. He moved them into the System folder, and the machine would boot again. It would even run Illustrator and Photoshop. Relieved, he left for the day. Prof. Addington decided to test it a little more by restarting it and opening Claris Works. Crash! But it still ran Eric's Solitare Samples quite nicely. The next day it wouldn't boot with extensions on, and gave another wiggling blank box.

So Professor Addington reinitialized the hard disk, even though the Disk Tools diskette said everything was hunky dory with the disk. That was the final straw. After reinstalling the system again, the computer wouldn't even play solitaire.

The fourth oracular spokesperson arranged for a repair. A winged courier would deliver a special box, and depart with the computer in the box. Six days later, the winged courier returned with the computer. It worked! Included was a form letter which had cryptic notations at the bottom describing "parts":
Prof. Addington wondered what else of importance is inside a computer besides a logic board and a hard disk.

She checked out all the programs that were included with the computer before cautiously installing software. No crashes! Then she decided she ought to ensure that the Global Village modem/ethernet PC Card, which she had bought in a fit of optimism, worked. She carefully inserted the card, then tested the Eject command. Error! The card did not eject properly. So she looked in the manual, and found 4 different ways to eject a card, the least desirable being the old paper clip trick. None of them worked. The paper clip bent. Since the card was stuck in the computer, she figured that it might at least work. No such luck! It had worked as a modem with the knight's computer beforehand, though.

So she called the oracle again. The oracular spokesperson cheerily offered to arrange for a repair in their Rochester facility. "But I just got it back yesterday!" Prof. Addington cried in despair. So he suggested finding a local authorized repair shop. She did, and brought it in, hoping it could be repaired before she left for a long-planned national conference the next week. When she tried to order the computer in July, she had no idea that she might not be able to use it for presentations and e-mail 5 1/2 months later.

She mused: "Is there a lemon law for computers? Is $6,000 too large for small claims court? Should I have bought a Think Pad instead? Is this what hell is like?"


Last modified January 5, 1996.
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