As those of my friends without Caller ID have found over the last couple of weeks, I have had some serious computer problems recently. Specifically the hard disk on my computer has failed. That’s ‘failed’ as in ‘loss of all data and writings over the last year and a half including many photographs of the family and so forth’. Irreparable. At least it hasn’t lost any travel documents, souvenirs and holiday photos since of course, like everybody else, I haven’t actually been anywhere, seen anyone or done anything. A kind of memory nirvana..
Despite the valiant efforts of Chris, my good friend of nearly two decades and general computer wizard, all is apparently lost. Flushed down the toilet of history. My nephew M2 (yes that is what we call him in the family) confirms this. As far as the data is concerned its ‘Goodnight Vienna’ and ‘Auf wiedersehen, pet’.
Obviously, being me, I have mourned this computer mishap extensively and disproportionately. Like Stalin’s funeral or the death of a pope. This has therefore been a rather testing time for my friends who have borne my computer woes with saintly patience although one pointed out, quite correctly, that my computer’s demise was very small beer by comparison with the nation’s collective body count over the last many months. “Snap out of it” were her words. Well, some of them. Her admonishment was delivered in a rather more vivid vernacular. So I sort of did snap out of it. I ordered a new hard drive which Chris was generous enough to fit it and to install Windows once more.
I won’t bother you any more with the laptop – this is not a computer story really. Suffice it to say that the computer worked so I began the long arduous process of re-installation of all the programs that have gone with the wind. And incidentally don’t let anybody ever tell you that it’s a five-minute job. Seventy two hours and counting here.
All was going well, agonisingly slowly but, until yesterday morning when I was ready to reinstate the mighty Dragon – voice recognition software not fire-breathing lizard you understand – it was OK. All tickety boo until the final screen of a 40 minute installation when, following a few ominous sounds from the vicinity of the DVD reader, a pop-up told me that the attempt had failed – yes, I got that – just as it was approaching the home stretch. Then for a microsecond or two the screen filled with diagnostic information and my efforts were nullified. As fast as you can say “shit”, it was all over. The DVD drive came to a screeching halt and contemptuously spewed out my installation disc, with what I fancied was a gallic snort. If it could have thrown it across the floor, it would have done. A second installation sortie proved no better but at least I was able to read the information screen as it flashed past. Third, fourth and fifth attempts proved equally futile. and it didn’t, or rather doesn’t, seem to matter whatever I did or do. The dragon will not revive.
To probably most of my readers, speech recognition software is little more than a gimmick of the aren’t-computers-awfully-clever variety. Nothing could be further from the truth for somebody who has Parkinson’s and whose tremor is sufficiently pronounced as to make people feel seasick. For me it is a lifeline. My tremor is of sufficient amplitude that individual keystrokes are a lottery. Couple that with predictive text on phones and the results can be little more than guesswork. Sometimes comical, at other times franky abusive. So typing is a nonstarter. it has to be speech recognition or there is no voice.
Currently I am at that stage. I have no voice. I am mute. And nothing is more profoundly unsettling than that to someone who still entertains the conceit that he is a writer however remote that reality. Voice recognition is my lifeline. After all, what is a voice if it cannot be recognised. And for those of you that are wondering, this was done, painfully slowly and with a morning worth of necessary corrections, using Google’s voice to text input. Better than nothing but not by much. My voice is little more than a whisper and, with all the erroneous transcriptions, a careless one.
Careless Whisper – that would be a good song title. What? George who?