Helpful machines.

Those of you who use MS Word know its trick of guessing what you’re writing, then either a) sending that annoying Mr. Monitor in to “help,” or b) giving you the option of saving a few keystrokes by finishing the word for you. The first one gets on my nerves; I know how to write a damn letter, thanks so much. But the second is sort of cool, since it’s non-intrusive, although I type fast enough that by the time I’ve noticed it’s offering to fill in the rest of “November” for me, I’m already done.

Today, hunting and pecking in Russian, I started to write the word “Sunday,” and what do you know? I got as far as “Boc” and yowzah, there it was: “Bockpecene” (with the myaky znak that belongs after the n, of course), hovering over the text. Why, thanks, Mr. Gates — always happy to let you finish that one for me.

I thought of that, wandering the high-tech wonders of the Media Union today. Not being much of a sci-fi reader, my first ideas about what technology might do for us came from “1984.” I feared a world of two-way telescreens and Big Brother and lovers creeping away to a grove of saplings, none big enough to hide a microphone. And look what’s happened? It’s almost 180 degrees different. Technology puts power in the hands of people more than governments, makes our lives easier and safer in a million ways. Ninety-nine cent album tracks you can pick and choose, a video-editing program so cheap it came bundled free on my laptop, the world as close as an e-mail address. And it finishes my words. Wonders upon wonders.

P.S. Yes, I know I will be singing a different tune when the aging iMac eats my screenplay four pages from its conclusion. Just let me go with it for now.

Posted at 11:10 pm in Uncategorized |

7 responses to “Helpful machines.”

  1. Marci said on October 15, 2003 at 9:58 am

    My grammer (and spelling) is often horrifying, so I don’t mind the helpful Word fill-ins, squiggly underlines, and wording suggestions. The miniature Mr. Mac II SE that pops up on the screen and asks me if I want help — he makes me inordinately angry. Part of the reason for that could be that it’s next to impossible to make him go away. “Are you absolutely, positively sure you don’t need help???” he wants to know. Yes, goddammit! Don’t wave at me! Just. Go. Away.

    Be preemptive, Nance. Strike while you have the chance. It’s time to visit your local Apple Store, and bring home a new Mac!

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  2. Nance said on October 15, 2003 at 10:14 am

    But I have a brand-new one! A 12-inch G4 PowerBook, and, to be sure, Mr. Monitor doesn’t appear on this one. He still lives in the old iMac, though.

    I hear Windows users have a worse helper. Don’t they have to endure Mr. Clippy? Or is he dead now, too?

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  3. alex said on October 15, 2003 at 10:44 am

    MS Word is annoying as hell, always fixing things that ain’t broke. It insists on capitalizing things I want lowercase. And it makes semiliterate middle managers in the ad biz throw my work back at me because they assume MS Word has to know better when it simply doesn’t.

    I started using AppleWorks and found it to be a much better program. In Word, you can’t even type “AppleWorks” without it trying to divide it into two separate words.

    On the plus side, though, when you lose everything on your hard drive (as you may remember happened to me, Nance) it’s the Word documents that are recoverable and the AppleWorks documents that are corrupted and cannot be opened.

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  4. michael golden said on October 15, 2003 at 2:26 pm

    I also find the automatic fix it things in Word extremely annoying. Each time I install or reinstall it I have to spend time hunting down and killing all the supposedly helpful gizmos including that stupid paper clip. That thing drives me wild. A couple of installs back I screen printed all the settings I liked. Now I have a series of cheat sheets that allows me to kill th — I mean configure Word to my liking in minutes.


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  5. Dan McAfee said on October 15, 2003 at 2:59 pm

    >> Technology puts power in the hands of people more than governments, makes our lives easier and safer in a million ways.

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  6. KCK said on October 15, 2003 at 6:46 pm

    Clippy and its evil spawn still have to be killed off manually in win versions of Office/Word.

    Micro$oft tells you how here for win:;en-us;290151

    here for Mac;en-us;185328

    Top of document has links to other win versions of Office/Word. Other annoyances can be disabled in tools | options | spelling & grammar.

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  7. alex said on October 16, 2003 at 12:57 am

    I found love on a two-way telescreen…

    And lost it on the Information Highway…

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