Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


A long ride with this column, with more to go

January 1, 2012

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, The Post-Standard

I hate year-end columns. But I'm writing one anyway, mostly because there's no other way to say what I want to say. In a normal column, I have to tell you about something new or explain how to fix something old, that kind of thing. But at the end of the year I get a pass. I can talk about writing this column.

The journey is the reward, indeed. Things are changing fast, and keeping up with everything is a dizzying job. But as I look back on 2,000 newspaper columns and innumerable reader comments that have tracked our progress so far, I can't help but admire your resilience. You've put up with me.

You looked the other way when I said really dumb things, like my constant criticism of Apple's computers throughout the '80s and '90s. "You're out of control," one reader wrote. But the rest of you let me speak.

You forgave me for a dreadful sense of humor. I wrote, in jest, about a "peas-keeping force" in the Mideast when the vegetable crop there had a bad year, to recall one gruesome pun. You smiled when I encouraged everyone to scramble the alphabet by sending palindromes to my pseudonymous altered ego, Dr. Gizmo.

And you kept your cool when I wrote, every few years, about new regulations from the mysterious International Substandards Organization (the ISO). The articles appeared on or near April 1 and contained revelations on such things as changes in the way clocks work -- we'd have to use "Metric Time," with 100 minutes to the hour, in one report, or we'd be forced to have computer chips implanted in each newborn baby to speed up Internet access, in another.

(And nobody complained when I ended all those ISO reports with, "Don't ask me for more details, since I've already told you more than I know.")

Some of you delighted me by sensing my luck in peering into the tunnel of the future, as in a 1988 column predicting thumb drives. I called them "cards," but being half right is better than being all wrong. "I think you made my day," one reader wrote.

Sometimes I had the right idea but was totally whacko on the time frame. In 2006, I counted the lines on my palm and wrote that by 2007 "you'll be able to buy a laptop computer that will run for an entire working day on one charge." My MacBook Air, the champ in the 2011 long-battery-life derby, can barely get through a six-hour workday -- if indeed there is such a brief stint in today's frazzled economy.

Some of you thanked me for guiding you through bad times at the keyboard. Others seemed to be thanking me, but might have been saying something else, as in this comment from a decade ago: "I have unfortunately done many of the things you warn computer users not to do."

Praise is always soothing, but I've learned more than you might suspect from wise-guy comments. Many of you have written privately to wonder why I've shared remarks that seem so insulting.

But they're not insults; they're just ways some folks communicate.

"You're lucky they keep you on the payroll," a reader told me in 2004.

Yes, I am lucky indeed. Thank you for joining me on this ride. We have a long way to go.