It’s surprising, but computers seem less predictable and more moody than people. 

Who would have thought that the seeming black and white of the binary world would lead to the moral equivalent of moodiness. And I don’t mean dystopian visions such as HAL in 2001. I mean here and now, on each of our desktops or laps.

Recent personal examples… (1) A fresh MS Outlook 2003 install on a new computer crashed regularly on opening; re-building the Outlook profile did not fix the problem. Four months later, the problem seems to have, by and large, fixed itself. (2) A new Dell computer would not connect to a WiFi access point in the line of sight. Six months later, miraculously, it just connected, with no user intervention. (3) The status bar in MS Word hides itself once a week for no apparent reason. (4) Sprint’s newly installed (and re-installed several times) Mobile Broadband Connect software refuses to work on my PC, the trouble shooting efforts of the highest level tech support notwithstanding.

Mainframes, IBM punch cards, and timesharing were frustrating to use but consistent. Likewise, early PCs. Then came local area networks. Then came the Internet. Then came patches, automatic software updates, and a host of other behind-the-scenes operating system and application activity. With every re-boot creating, in essence, an altered ecosystem, PCs behave more moodily than most people. Applications stop working, then they start. Systems freeze for no apparent reason (or, worse, display the dreaded blue screen of death).

Of course, all this takes a big toll on personal productivity. And it’s led me to say, with a straight face, “My computer is in a bad mood so I’m in a bad mood.” Maybe I need to start saying “I hope my PC’s mood is better tomorrow.”

[Yes, I do use MS Windows. Yes, I know with a Mac or Linux it would be better. And no, those are not viable solutions in most businesses.]