Behind me, the door locks with a satisfying click. I have been waiting for years for what I am about to do. I relax my shoulders, stretch my neck, breathe deeply. Gathering all my courage, I begin;
September 21, 2021
RE: There is Time to Murder and Create*
Dear Word Perfect 3.0-10.0;
Finally, I have both the strength and wisdom to put my complicated feelings into words. To begin with, there is nothing perfect about you. As you must remember, it all began in 1991 with Word 3.0. Our relationship is similar to the one I am forced to have with my drug addicted, brother-in-law. A relationship thrust upon me without my knowledge or consent. We continue the pretense of acting polite on Christmas, sending each other terse birthday greetings, and eventually settle into a weary détente.
I understood your trepidation at our first meeting. IBM had been the world leader for over forty years. You had a very steep uphill climb. What I can’t understand is your refusal to embrace the previous technology? Couldn’t the old and new have worked together for the benefit of all? Why couldn’t you have embraced the two spaces after a period? Why couldn’t you at least acknowledge that millions of us had been taught two spaces after a period. If you had ever bothered to take the time to consider our point of view, you might have realized those two spaces were so far embedded into our muscle memory that despite years of trying, we would never be able to make the change. Why for the love of God couldn’t you let us keep those two spaces? Why did everything have to be about what you wanted, to the exclusion of everyone and everything else?
Before you arrived, we learned to listen and work with our machines. An ear cocked to hear the slight buzz of the sewing machine told you it was thirsting for just a wee drop of oil. The faint squeeze of the back brakes reminding you it is time for an adjustment. Machines tap you lightly on the shoulder as if to say, I need just a bit of your attention. Only when ignored, do they raise their voices, demanding to be heard.
Then you burst on the scene, a snarling wolf trapped inside a computer program. Silent, demanding, and brutal. THIS IS THE TEMPLATE YOU WILL USE. When we failed to agree that your template was best, when we dared to try to assert ourselves, you buried instructions in the most convoluted places, playing some demented game of hide and seek. As the years go by, you continue to abuse your authority by randomly increasing complexity, yet never adding value. You are neither art, nor science, just brute ugly force.
You have perfected your ability to begin your unnecessary and unwanted upgrades at the worst possible time. You seem to delight in angering and frustrating every user worldwide. Neither of us will ever forget, March 17, 2012 when you kept me up half the night desperately trying to retrieve a 20-page memo I had worked on for months. I still hear your smugness, your cruel cackling laughter at my frustration and tears.
Despite all of this, I tried for decades to make our relationship work. However, it is your supreme arrogance which prevents us from ever achieving a healthy relationship between equals. You write over me and fail to listen. I can spell, I don’t need you to do it for me. I was skilled in communication years before I ever meet you. I have never wanted your help to clarify my thoughts or to offer innovative vocabulary. In 30 years together you have never suggested a correction or addition that was any improvement to my original text.
What I can never forgive is the rift you continually create between my husband and I. He is six years my junior and has no experience with other forms of typing or written communication. Your way is the only way that he knows. You have chosen the same method used by all tyrants throughout recorded history. You are silently waiting for my generation to die off so you can exercise complete and total control. I must admit this strategy has served you quite well. My husband and I have a warm and loving marriage except for our long-standing disagreements regarding you. He cannot comprehend the seething anger, the frustration, the outright hatred I have for you. He believes my feelings to be irrational. If only I would take the time to learn to work with you. I know better, I know at the core of my being, that you will never make even the slightest attempt to work with me.
What my husband fails to understand is that I vividly remember the time before you arrived. I still recall the awe I felt the first time I put my fingers on the keyboard of an IBM Selectric. Each key, a perfect union of agility and strength. I remember my pride in my job as a legal secretary, the first time someone trusted me with responsibility. The keys on the typewriter seem to hum “ I am here for you.” Set your margins, adapt your spacing the way that works best for you. All of your personal settings will be here waiting for you tomorrow morning, exactly the way you left them.
We will help you make your words sing. The typing ball will become a lullaby. We will encourage you to type faster, help you get a raise, work your way through college. All your envelopes will be perfectly aligned, sending important messages to far off places. Your words will become so crisp and clear that your entire life will follow suit. You will grow confident in all of your abilities. You understand and respect that I am a work of both engineering and art, workmanship and beauty, timeless simplicity, and impeccable craftmanship. Together, we make your life better.
A typewriter is a loving friend, and you word processor are an abusive prick.
Emily Jane Morgan
I slam down the lid, sweep the computer off the table, send it crashing to the floor. I smash my foot into the cover, a crack creeps slowly in both directions. Years of pent-up frustration drain out of me. I quiet my breathing. I stand in the silence of this locked room, inhaling possibilities. I walk to my new writing desk, glass, devoid of files, papers, and the expectations of others. Silently, prayerfully, I place each finger on top of a key on my newly delivered refurbished IBM Selectric 1.
Oh baby, I missed you.
*(There is time to murder and create is a quote atributed to T.S. Elliott)