Archived Story

Tried and true troubleshooting

Published 11:09am Friday, March 29, 2013

I went to school for journalism and minored in English.

Yet somehow, when one of Tallapoosa Publishers’ many gadgets, gizmos, computers or printers starts misbehaving, Audra Spears or I are the first line of defense.

I have no formal training, I will admit. My only qualification seems to be that I have been cursing malfunctioning electronics for as long as I can remember.

I was 6 when my family got our first computer – a Commodore 128.

We only had a few programs for it. The graphics were terrible. It had one of those dot matrix printers that squeaked and clicked as it chugged through a page per minute.

This was before the days of hard drives so every program had to be opened by inserting a 5 1/4 inch floppy disk – about the size of a compact disc case (sadly even this CD reference may be a little dated now).

This process too made an incredible amount of noise. It was like a fax machine, but with a slight stutter.

Yet I had no idea how fast computers would become one day. I would patiently wait, sometimes singing along with the rhythmic blips and bleeps to pass the time.

And this was all so my sister and I could play with a program called Sesame Street Print Kit. It was an unlikely game for a 6-year old to enjoy, as it was more of a graphic design/word processing program, with the child-friendly addition of a pixilated Big Bird.

We would design birthday cards or fliers, adding Cookie Monster or musical note borders for flair. Sometimes we would make menus for fictitious restaurants – wherever our imagination would take us.

Then we would patiently watch as line by line, our creations came to life. Trying hard not to rip our masterpieces, we would remove the perforated strips from the side of the printed copy (which were used to ensure the paper fed correctly through this type of printer) and proudly go show our parents.

But occasionally, usually after you had invested time into a project, the program would lock up and freeze. No one taught me how to use this computer, and I suppose the natural solution for a broken toy to a 6-year old was to turn it off and turn it back on.

It’s the same procedure that coaxed Super Mario Bros. back to life whenever my Nintendo quit working. Any old school video game nerd like myself can recall the wrestling match that was sometimes required to get those old cartridges working.

Turn it off. Turn it on. Back off. Turn on and then hit reset. Back off. Pull out the cartridge and blow off the dust. Repeat.

It defied logic sometimes, as the same process would work only upon repeating it five or six times (this is actually how some define insanity – to repeat the same process multiple times and expect different results).

Time warp back to my newspaper office – present day. There is more technology now in my phone then all the devices I just listed. We have touch screens. We can print in color, and print quickly at that.

Those 5 ¼ floppies gave way to 3 ½ inch hard discs. Then CDS. Then flash drives.

My computer only makes noise now when I want it to.

But one thing hasn’t changed – my troubleshooting method.

No matter how complex these devices have become, the old turn it off and on trick still works almost every time.

“The Internet isn’t working!”

Turn that modem and router off and back on. Boom, Google is back.

“This printer is going crazy!”

Turn it off, turn it on. Watch in awe as the past 20 attempts to print your document spit out all in succession.

I am happy to try to fix anything I can. But I know I am not the only one who is privy to this process (Audra too uses this same “mysterious” method).

So the next time your electronic gadget gives you grief, power cycle it.

Some gentle cajoling never hurts either.

You’re a good printer. Yes you are! Yes you are!

Nelson is news editor for The Outlook.

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