Cabbages & Kings: Looking for an exit off the Information Superhighway

My recent surgery left me at the mercy of my aging computer, set up in my family room.

The continual lack of any worthwhile television programming sent me to the ol' "coffee grinder' more than a few times in the past several days.

Now that I am on the road to recovery, I have a few observations.

First of all, in my opinion, the 'net is becoming trashier and offers less and less of what I want to see.

The Internet is riddled with pornography, fly-by-night scams, and ads that promise everything but rarely deliver even the minimum.

Secondly, if you don't have the highest-speed ultra-quick service, you'll wind up waiting for what seems like eons to access the most basic information.

During a regular work week, I'll check for e-mail upon my arrival home or after eating supper.

Occasionally, there will be a message from one of my family members or friends but more often than not, there will be news of some fantastic offers on junk I simply cannot live without.

Yeah, right.

And when I want to respond to an e-mail from one of my kids or buddies, it usually has to be re-sent after I boot up the computer since the "server cannot be found." The result? I can call 'em in less time and with the new, cheap long distance rates, it's not much more than using the e-mail.

But it is a lot more personal.

My wife and I recently were thinking about ways to cut costs, and the most obvious would be to go off-line and use the computer for games.

Actually, that's not such a bad idea.

Not only would we save a few bucks, we wouldn't have to be on nearly constant alert worrying about the growing number of viruses that weirdos send out to destroy other folks' computers.

I've only had this computer for a little more than one year.

It was a gift from a friend who bought a new, upgraded system.

But now, I am at the point where I only use it for e-mail and to catch up on the industry news via a couple of newspaper-related sites.

So to save about $21 a month, I can cancel my service and go back to writing letters or making telephone calls.

After all, that's what I did for 55 years and it seemed to work fine.

If it's an emergency, or some really good news, use the phone.

If it's family chit-chat, a letter will do and it only costs 34 cents.

As far as on-line purchases, well, I believe you have to be at least one sandwich short of a picnic lunch to give out your credit card number or any other financial information over a sleazy operation such as the World Wide Web.

One cold, hard fact of computers remains constant.

You can cause yourself a lot of grief with a simple key stroke.

What may seem to be a good deal on a videotape or book could easily wind up being a financial windfall for some dastardly deed-doer in that vast electronic netherworld.

I clearly understand the necessity of computers in the world of business.

I also like using my p.c.

to send a late column to the newsroom after some incident at home has inspired me.

But outside of the business world, what do computers really offer us?

I know all about the window to the world philosophy, but with the speedy news offered via TV and the local news coverage in the Miner and similar small papers, the importance of computers seems to lessen.

Once, I tried contacting others with COPD, the lung disease with which I am afflicted.

I managed to locate hundreds of people with whom to compare notes, but all seemed to be preoccupied with being sick.

It soon became too depressing and after a few weeks, I signed off from that service.

A lot of my pals who I thought would correspond regularly on the 'net don't bother.

In fact, the ones who have computers rarely use them.

Computers have become sort of an electronic status symbol that is really unnecessary.

Fun, yes.

Convenient, to be sure.

But unnecessary.

* * *

I have to do it – give a shiny King's crown to my surgeon and the surgery staff at Kingman Regional Medical Center, that is.

My minor operation went off without a hitch.

The Cabbages will be sent over the Internet to the pesky telemarketing crew that called me twice on Tuesday, just after I sat down to give my surgery wound a respite.

I can always tell the telemarketers because they rarely, if ever, pronounce my last name correctly.