“#@&*$!”  “%*#@#*!”  “You #@&*#  thing!” Oh, sorry; they’re just a couple of technical computer terms. Roughly translated they mean, “Oh bother, my computer is mis-behaving.” (There are very similar terms for motorcycles that mis-behave or won’t start!).
The cause of this regrettable outburst was having just lost over two hours of work. Gone. Kaput. Yes, I know, it’s probably happened to everyone. I’ve had it happen a few times over the years. I remember one occasion quite well. It was many years ago now. I was typing a newsletter. I’d been at it for almost three hours and was getting towards the end. Feeling a bit stiff and sore, I leaned back in the chair, stretched out my legs and kicked the plug out of the power-point!
Black screen; everything dead! Of course I hadn’t been saving my work as I went had I! And so everything was lost. My disbelief turned to rage and then to frustration, but there was no escaping what had happened; and what had to happen next. I turned the computer on, loaded the publishing program and began to type. “Hello, and welcome to this month’s newsletter…..”
An important lesson was learnt that day; always save your work as you go! And mostly I do. Some programs even pop-up little reminders telling you it’s time you saved your work. The reminders are very polite, but you get the feeling the computer is really saying, “Hey dumbo, you want the same thing to happen again? Then click ‘Save’, you idiot!” 
But back to this latest incident. I’d been typing up one of the road-tests for the web-site. I’d made a brief start before, but now I was getting stuck-in to get it finished. It takes a long time to write these things. I don’t type quickly (two-fingers, jab-and-poke!); and then there’s the thinking of what to say and exactly how to word it. And then editing and re-writing. It all takes time. Type, type, type. Think. Type, type, type. Read. Delete. Type, type type. I’d begun this session fairly late one evening, and it was now just after midnight. I was almost finished. A re-read, bit of editing / re-writing and I’d be done. Suddenly the screen went black. Just a thin green line across the top. “What the….?” No, no; there were no “technical terms” used at this point!
My immediate assumption was that the monitor had just died. Now, despite the lesson learned years before, I hadn’t been saving my work! (I don’t know why; maybe it was late and …; maybe it was Murphy and that law of his…; I don’t know!). But I thought it’d be okay; I was using Microsoft Word, and Word saves automatically as it goes. I’ve been saved by this before. The computer has suddenly crashed and when I re-started it I found I’d only lost the last ten minutes or so; not the last half-hour since I hit “Save”. But I thought I’d do even better than that; I’d save the work by using the keyboard. I knew that Alt / F brings up the File menu, but I couldn’t remember how many steps down to the “Save” command. So I fired up another computer, loaded Word and checked. Three. So, back to “Mr. Black-screen”; tap, tap, tap on the arrow key and hit Enter. Right, that should be all saved. Now Alt / F4 to close the program, and Alt /F4 again and Enter to shut it down. But somewhere in this process it started beeping; and it wouldn’t shut down. A couple of  Alt/Ctrl/ Del hits and there were flickering lights on the front of the case and it all started again. With the monitor working!
It all came on as normal, like nothing had happened. I checked the monitor cable’s connection at the back of the computer, but it was fine. So perhaps it was a computer problem? Weird! Maybe, I thought, it was a virus; it’d been a couple of weeks or more since I’d up-dated my anti-virus files. So I logged onto the anti-virus web-site and downloaded the latest definition files. Then I ran a full virus-scan. This all takes quite a while to do. Even on broadband it takes 10 minutes or so for the files to download and install; then another 15 minutes or more to do a full scan. But nothing was found; all was okay. Very weird!
Now, remember it was just after midnight when all this trouble began, so by this stage it was around 1am. And I had a fairly early start the next day. I was joining up with a group of riders who were doing a day-ride down my way. They were riding almost past my door, but stopping for an early lunch at a small town a bit less than an hour away. I’d arranged to meet them there and continue the ride with them. So I thought I’d just check that Word had saved properly and I’d call it a night. Go to My Documents, click the appropriate file and …… there was my article, exactly as it was when I’d begun about three hours previously! Nothing had been saved! All that work lost! (Cue afore-mentioned technical terms!).
After some discussion with my computer, (well, not really “discussion”, more like “name-calling”!) I accepted the inescapable fact that it would all have to be done again! And as what I’d written was still reasonably fresh in my mind (and I’d thrown away my hand-written notes!), it really had to be done then! If I left it until the next day it’d be a lot harder to remember what I’d written and how I’d written it. I certainly didn’t feel like starting over again at that hour of the morning, but there was really no other way.
It still took a couple of hours. (I think I was typing slower by then too; my brain being fuddled by the lateness of the hour as well as pondering on what had actually happened to the computer). So by the time I got it done, had a shower and got to bed, it was just after 4am. But it was now finished! Although the effects were still to be felt the next day!
Being a musician and a computer-buff, I’m used to late nights; but 4am was overly late even by my standards! So I got off to a very slow start the following morning. By the time I had breakfast, did the usual things and got the bike out etc, I was running very late.
By the time I got to where they were having lunch it was well past the arranged meeting-time; but I’d made it - they were still there. There were a bunch of bikes and two or three people wandering around near them. I went over and introduced myself (I had met one of them before), and had a brief look at the bikes as we chatted for a few minutes. I even took a photo.
The others were off wandering around the town doing whatever. There was almost 30 minutes before they were due to leave, so I hurried off to buy some lunch. I should have had enough time; but then the shop took over 20 minutes to make two sandwiches!
I gulped one sandwich down as I hurried back to the group. By now everyone was back and they were all getting their gear on and mounting up ready to leave. I munched half the remaining sandwich, threw the rest in a bin, got my gear on, jumped on my bike and rode off with them.
As I rode along, burping loudly into my helmet, the half-eaten food churning in my stomach, I began to think about the effect that computers can have on our lives. A perfectly good day out on the bike had been spoilt by whatever it was that had happened to my computer! (And yes, by my own stupidity in not manually saving it as I went!). Computers can spoil your day! And they can also give you indigestion!
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