Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

When Multitasking Becomes Non-Tasking


There is nothing I hate more—and the thing I really hate about it is that it’s happening more and more as the years go by—is this: After I’ve told the computer to do something, I get no response. Obviously, something is going on, delaying my request (that is, something other than what I requested) but I have no indication as to what it is. And, generally, I have no means to find out what’s causing this delay.


In the past, we PC users relied on <Ctrl><Alt><Del> (Control, Alt, Delete for you non-PC users) to regain control of our machines. We used it so much we even made fun of it. The good old days. But over the years, these machines have become more and more complicated, making it harder and harder to regain control using <Ctrl><Alt><Del>. Or even directly running Windows Task Manager.


Just after writing these words, I experienced another one of these episodes. After getting my email from AOL, I clicked on something in their window. This not only locked up AOL (an hourglass icon for the mouse, and a “Program Not Responding” message), it prevented me from opening the Task Manager. And, obviously, no <Ctrl><Alt><Del>. This isn’t the first time this exact problem has happened to me, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.


My point, however, is not that I’m having these particular problems. Everyone is having similar problems. And it’s inevitable. Due to the increasing complexity of these systems (hardware and software), this type of problem happens more frequently. The end result is that we are losing control. I don’t know about you, but at some point it’s likely to put my machine at risk of a good, swift kick.

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