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My daughter called me one day to complain that her printer would not work. She lives in another city and I could not just pop over to assist her, so I attempted phone tech support. The problem was that paper was not feeding properly into the printer. It was getting crumpled on one edge on the way into the printer. Of course, I asked her to reach in and feel around to see if anything was in there. I also wondered if the feed rollers might need cleaning. The frustration level was rising. I was sure it was something simple, but she had little time for technology failures.

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The next step, was to search on the Internet for similar problems and to find the solution. I found information on how to clean the rollers. I forwarded information on to her. Now, she tends to always be busy and is certainly not a techie type. We all know people in the techno-aversion range who have various levels of interest and ability when it comes to technology. Some love to roll up their sleeves and dive in. Others can’t even imagine doing anything to fix problems involving technology. They just want to plug it in and have it work. Apple Inc. understood this and created computers that could be taken out of the box, plugged in and they were ready to go. There are a range of people that fall between those extremes.

We have all had to deal with a variety of techno-failures. Perhaps you had a broom break. A broom is a type of technology. Call it low-tech. I’m sure we have all had a more complicated technology fail, such as a light bulb. Most of us have also had very complex technology fail like a computer. High-tech devices are so complex that I often think it amazing that they even work some of the time. There are so many things that could fail.

Lately, I have been talking to my daughter about more technology issues. She is learning Adobe InDesign for one of her jobs. I have a background in printing and publishing and ran several Macintosh computer labs for training students to go into the printing industry. We were discussing some of the things that can go wrong and difficulties she has had in getting her typesetting and layout to work properly. Nothing is as simple as it seems. Everybody these days thinks they can write and publish, make documents and do some of the things they see published. My daughter is learning that, at the professional level, it is complex.

I explained to her that, if you can’t replicate the problem, you probably can’t solve it. Some failures or errors are transient. That is, they just simply occur, often at the most inopportune times. I often say, “Technology is great, when it works.” Or, “Technology will fail just when you need it most.”

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Another call from my daughter informed me that her computer would not work. We tried everything. She even had a guy friend listen to the strange sounds emitting from the MacBook Pro and then remark, something like, “It is fried.” The local authorized Apple computer store said that it might need a couple of things done and quoted her prices for just looking at it. She was in her final weeks of university and also needed the computer for work, so I said that she should not spend any money on the machine until I could look at it. I told her to go get a new one and that we would help her. When I got the computer, it was indeed completely dead. That, of course, due to sitting for weeks and the battery being fully depleted. So, I charged it overnight. I am writing this article on that very same computer. It is fine. Go figure!

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Probably the most used troubleshooting method that everybody knows is, “When in doubt (or, when all else fails), reboot.” While you’re waiting for your computer to come back up, grab a stick of gum and relax. But, don’t crumple and toss the wrapper somewhere on your desk because it might land in your printer and that is exactly what had happened with my daughter. I got her printer and it now works too. Anybody need a printer?

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