Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Machines Are Taking Over

In this week's "Dilbert" comic strip the company's spam filter has attained self-awareness and taken over the company. It has assumed control of all e-mail, decreed the creation of killer robots, and restructured the organization chart. One character informs another, "Apparently you now report to the microwave." That's how I feel this week.

Tuesday afternoon my editor informed me that two RTF files I'd sent her arrived as unreadable computer garbage. When I checked the same files myself, that's what I found, too—even though they were transmitted FROM this computer TO the same computer. I tried converting them to DOC files and sent them in that form. They opened all right for me, but they were marked "read only." She said they came to her as text files. My theory is that AOL either has developed a grudge against me or is engaged in a feud with this computer. Or maybe a gremlin has possessed my word processing program, and it needs an exorcist. Another RTF file I mailed to myself a few days ago, by the way, transmits fine, just as they always did before. I haven't downloaded a new word processor or browser or anything of the kind in the past week. Clearly I am cursed. I resorted to mailing the files through gmail instead, solving the immediate problem.

If it weren't for the fact that two of our sons are computer wizards (one of them a professional web designer), my husband and I would be doomed to a Luddite existence. When the youngest eventually moves out, we'll be in deep trouble. He offered a plausible explanation for this file problem, that AOL has recently made behind-the-scenes changes in its web mail system.

Which leads to my perennial lament: Why can’t anybody leave well enough alone? The rulers of the commercial realm seem to think customers want perpetual novelty. I don’t! I want the merchants, products, and services I depend on to reach an optimal point and STAY there. (For instance, my life would be much improved if our local Giant would stop discontinuing grocery items as soon as we get used to regarding them as indispensable staples.) Newest, latest, and greatest—bah, humbug.

Margaret L. Carter (


  1. I had something very similar happen to a short story I submitted for an anthology call for submissions. I converted it to RTF, and then, a day or two after the deadline I checked my e-mail, and the attached RTF file was empty--completely devoid of text. The anthology editors never mentioned that they didn't get it, either; they just sent a form rejection. Apparently empty files don't sell--go figure!

  2. Margret,

    My grandmother had a saying:

    You find a product that does the job that behoves it.

    You buy and buy,

    Until some fool comes along and improves it.

    Guess it's not a new problem, because I remember hearing her say that over fifty years ago.
    Recently I have been (%#@!ing MicroSoft for the same reasons. You have my profound sympathies