How a computer is like a child

There's more than just the annoyance

by Matthew M. Lug - Class of '99

Human development has been compared to that of most other animals, in an effort to understand the fundamental similarities between different animals. However, I have yet to see anyone compare human development to that of a computer. I can understand why, after all, a computer isn't a living organism, but it is quite similar to one. Ideally, a computer should process information in a manner similar to that of the human brain. It requires an energy source, and interacts with the outside world through various types of input and output mechanisms. Computers occupy important positions in society, and many people have been known to speak to them; some computers even speak back. Therefore, I am proposing a 12:1 ratio (or 1 year:1 month) to compare Human to Computer development, in the same way that a 7:1 ratio is used to compare Human to Canine development.

Pre-purchase (pre-natal)
Much planning goes into the purchase of a computer. Most people spend time on research, so that they will pick the right time for the purchase and will be prepared when the time comes. It is also common for people to purchase several accessories in anticipation of the new arrival. Some people rush into the purchase and end up with something they either can't handle, or end up not really wanting.

Purchase (birth)
This phase takes longer for some people than for others, and there are also several different methods of purchase to choose from. When it is finally done, there is some packaging material to get through, and then the computer comes out shiny and new. There is an immediate bond felt between owner and computer, as well as a pending increase in credit card bills. Nothing else in the world matters to the new owner, a new era has begun.

0-1 month
The novelty has worn off. Really. It was nice when it didn't do anything, but now it requires a lot of attention, otherwise it might end up doing something that the owner wouldn't really like. This is a period of exploration for both owner and computer, and hardly anything productive is accomplished. Frequent calls and visits with technical support personnel are common

1-3 months
The computer can now do things, some are even productive, but it doesn't always do what the owner wants it to. All basic software has been installed, and the bugs are being worked out. The calls and visits with technical support personnel become fewer, but more serious.

4-6 months
Most of the bugs have been worked out, and new features can often be added with minimal difficulty. Others frequently comment on the computer, and those with older ones secretly wish they had one like it.

7-12 months
The computer progresses more and more each month, and is almost as useful as the owner had hoped it would be. There are occasional problems, but they can often be worked out without outside help. The worst seems to be over, and the owner is glad that the computer isn't brand new anymore. It's almost as if the computer has become a part of the family.

13-16 months
The computer seems to be developing a mind of its own. It becomes increasingly difficult for the owner to get things accomplished with it, and some things are just impossible. The computer needs an endless number of upgrades, and the owner seems to be paying more to accomplish the same things that the computer could do easily just a few months earlier.

17 months on
Well, the novelty has completely worn off. The computer just can't seem to keep up with the owner's needs, and the owner's cash supply canŐt keep up with the computer's needs. The reasonable alternatives are to either keep the computer around in a reduced role, or to send it to a new home, where it can be of more use. There are other options, like a massive upgrade or purchasing a new computer, but those would cost quite a bit of money, and might end up causing many more problems. The owner envies people with brand new computers, and thinks back to what it was like to have one. Despite all the problems, and the enormous cost, the experience still seems somewhat worthwhile.

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