The Computer Widow

By Devi 


For every personal computer or home computer sold in India, there is a computer widow somewhere. If the husband is also interested in Ham (Amateur) Radio - then it is a totally gone case. 

Last Sunday night our friends Captain and Mrs. Peter dropped in for a visit. I offered them a drink, George Peter asked.

But where is the worse half?
Where he always is these nights. He is in the study talking to his computer.

He talks to his computer?
All the time. Either to the computer or he is dropping messages into the computer mail boxes, to be collected by x, y, z around the world. They have taken the place of television, conversation and romance, I said bitterly.

“We didn’t realize it was so bad” , they commiserated. As soon as he finishes dinner, he leaves the table and says, ‘Well, I have to go in and programme a new household budget for the next year.

The Peters thought that at least he was trying to save me some money. But they didn't know the other half of it. My husband says that he is opening a file on the computer but when I walked in I found that he was playing ‘Stars Wars’. Though caught red-handed, he said that he was just checking out his floppy disk drive.

I  never felt so alone in my life, not even when he was working on his thesis, in those bygone days, when he did neglect me so. At least when we watched the world cup I could sit next to him but now he says he has to be alone with his software. If it isn’t the PC then it is the Ham radio. The last time we had friends over for dinner, he wouldn’t leave the study because he had broken into the Hamnet. The friends in our drawing room were neglected in favour of some unknown voice. 

Our friends hoped that ultimately he would tire of this new found love/ obsession.  But I know better.  He is getting in deeper than ever. He reads computers magazines the way other men read Penthouse. His idea of a centre-fold is a 640 K micro-computer that will expand to four mega bytes. My friends were intrigued, ‘How do you know all this stuff?’ they asked. Does he explain these things to you?  Actually it is simple, he talks in his sleep. They consoled me saying that at least he was not dreaming about another woman. What my friends don’t understand is this that this is far worse. In my youth I got used to being marginalized by a new car, a new research project etc.. I could compete with another woman but I can’t compete with a P.C. We no longer have any communication. He has forgotten ordinary language. The only language he uses is Basic, Cobol and Fortran. I am at my wit’s end. May be I should try dropping messages via the mailbox.

I threatened to leave last month but he said to wait until he could programme all the variables and come up with modified alternatives. Well-wishers suggested that I should buy my own P.C. and plug into his P.C., but tell me who is interested in interfacing with him via a terminal?  After all we live in the same house.  As a last resort, friends offered to talk to him and make him see sense. They went into the study and found him as usual hunched over the keyboard.   

"How is life?" was their conversational gambit. "Your son is down with a viral infection. Are you worried?"

"No, but I had a problem with a computer virus, which I have straightened out", he said. "What news of Devi?" they asked. He said, “Wait a minute, I will find out”.

He put in a disc, pushed a code key, typed on the screen ‘Devi’. As  he pressed the ‘RETURN’ button, the print out said, Devi is either in the kitchen, the bath, the bedroom or the Masonic Lodge ! The computer obviously was wrong on the last item, but then once you hit the ‘DELETE’ button, it can be rectified.   

My husband thinks my fears of  losing him to a floppy disc retrieval system are exaggerated. After all he assured me – he is only feeding data into the P.C. so that it can forecast how we can live our autumnal years happily. The only thing I can do is to join computer classes myself. If you can’t beat them at it, you have to join them. 

As for the Ham-Radio, we all chant Alpha, Bravo, Victor etc. these days. I am a Ham, my daughter is another, son is one, ditto daughter-in–law. As my son puts it, we are no longer a family but a HAMILY!

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