Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Printer is in the Living Room

My wife has a computer upstairs, in her studio. It is a desk-top type that's a bit out of date, or so I'm told. This based on the fact it still uses kerosene instead of electricity. But it's a very reliable computer, equipped with all mod cons; it's printer is also a scanner and if you're not careful, it will take a picture of you and send it to a list of her friends. Were it not at the end of a long flight of ascending stairs her computer would surely get more work than it does.

I have a large computer in my room as well. Plus some ham radio equipment. It fills a corner of the room, immediately adjacent to a ten-foot long Grounding Rod and a coax lead to a lengthy antenna. There is a laser-type printer attached to my computer which prints out pages at a remarkable rate, or prints out masks for printed circuit boards. Next to it is a printer that spits in color, as for photos or graphs, or pie-charts or any number of other neat things, such as transparencies and envelopes and .pdf files in which illustrations are embedded within the text, as well as an HP flat-bed plotter that can read old books or whatever and, when fed to the proper software, will print you out a reasonably error-free copy of whatever was written 'Way Back Then. Drawings, too. Which is why I even have the plotter, which I've had for some time.

The computer and ham radio equipment pretty much dominates the place. In the summer it is the only room given a whiff of air conditioning, since the electronics tend to heat things up.

After being diagnosed with cancer we soon realized that a computer would be helpful. In fact, it has turned out to be a virtual necessity, keeping track of drugs, prescriptions dosages and so forth on one hand, and lab reports on the other. Since physicians don't know how to write, we've found it wise to run their prescriptions though the scanner and keep a record of that, along with a translation (provided by their office) of what the squiggles mean.

Most of what the computer does is manipulate files of data. The files are kept on rigid disks, of which I believe there are now eight attached to the machine all the time. It also keeps data files on memory chips; jobbies about three-quarters of an inch square that the computer 'sees' via USB ports, using about a dozen of them. our main-board or 'mother-board' operates at some incredible rate of speed, a necessity dictated by the more than tera-byte of memory; some oriented this way, others that way, with an occasional cat to JUMP onto the middle of the mess and send it toppling to the floor.

But the computer that is used the most often is my elderly HP laptop, which replaced a Toshiba laptob, which never should have been offered for sale, in my humble opinion. The Toshiba is little more than an accident waiting to happen. Which it does quite often. Then I have to find out what's wrong, find out where I can buy the replacement parts, then take it to pieces, replace the damaged part (or software), put it back together again and hope it works. Right now, it doesn't. But the HP does, despite having to replace the keyboard at frequent intervals; it is a very trashy machine.

For a time, the sole purpose of the lap-tops was to carry information back & forth between the other computers (there are several more out in the shop). But I recently installed a wireless network, liking all of the computers together. This has saved a remarkable amount of time, not to mention Hikes up the Golden Stairway (because that's what it costs to maintain). Now, with every computer linked on a UHF circuit, moving data from one system to another is dead simple. Of course, there's still those damn stairs... Or at least, there was. Last week I got onto Amazon and asked them to send me a wireless printer. Copier. Photo-maker. There is a picture of it at the start of this article.

I use the lap-top in the patio. And the green-house. And the kitchen. And out in this end of the shop. That's as far as the wireless signal will reach. If I need to INPUT something from the printer it has to be in the format of a memory chip, because that's what the lap-top thinks the printer is. A memory chip. You plug the memory chip into a slot on the front of the printer. Usually, the chip is from a digital camera. When you plug the chip into the printer you can then examine the pictures. If that sounds a bit wacky, it's not, because often times you want to see a BIG picture of something. Usually, you look at the big picture and decide if you need another shot or if this one is good enough. This becomes critically important when you have a broken back. Or cancer. Or both. And you're trying to explain to someone how to cc their heads, which is another of those 'unimportant' tasks, so-deemed by the Instant Experts that litter the landscape near any VW-powered airplane.


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