Monday 24 December 2018

Buying a new computer monitor

Three days ago I was in front of the computer screen in the morning as usual when it started to malfunction. Grey fuzzy areas appeared at the bottom of the display and they flickered and occupied the whole screen, then the sequence repeated itself. I knew there was something wrong with either the display or the graphics card in the PC.

The display had been dodgy for many months. It had been bought for me by one of the technicians sent out by the company I usually call to help me when things go odd-shaped with the desktop. He had ridden his motorbike down to Ultimo and I had gone in my car and we had parked in the street and entered the store. He had chosen the display and I had paid for it, then we had gone back to my place with the thing in my boot. But for a while it had been acting up. It would flicker for a couple of hours each morning, then the whole screen would be filled momentarily with diagonal lines and colours before it settled down to operate normally. Until the morning of the 21st, that is.

I phoned my regular technical support company but the operator was quite clear that they did not help with installing displays. So I bit my tongue and got in the car and drove to the shopping centre, where I parked. I went up in the lifts to the second floor and had a chicken-and-avocado panino and a bottle of orange juice. Then I took the lift down to the electrical retailer on the first floor. The store had only opened about 30 minutes earlier and it was Christmas so there were not enough staff around. I waited there until someone became free and then pointed at a screen. He had dark skin and I told him about my computer problems but he didn’t appear to be very interested even though it was mostly his company that was selling me faulty products.

He logged my purchase in a terminal and then took me to the cash register, where a line of people waited. One Anglo man, aged in his 60s, was very vocal about the lack of staff, and complained loudly to everyone who could hear him that he would contact the chain owner to make his views known. I understood his feelings but I thought it was bad form to lose your temper at Christmas. It was something that didn’t match the spirit of the season. When it was my turn, I paid the purchase price with a credit card. I took the box out the front doors of the store past the security guy and went to the parking ticket machine. It told me there was nothing to pay and so I took the lift down to the floor where my car waited, put the box in the boot, and drove home.

In my apartment I unpacked the new monitor and put the old monitor on the floor preparatory to taking it down to the loading bay where bulky items are discarded by residents. I plugged in the HDMI cable and the power flex and tried to turn the computer on but nothing happened. I used my laptop, which I had opened up earlier in the day during the hours I had waited for the retailer to open, and searched for a computer help firm. There was my usual company and below it another listing for a company based in Sydney. I phoned them and spoke to the operator, who told me that someone would come out that evening at 7pm. I hung up and went back to the laptop.

Later, my phone rang and it was the technician calling from a job in Roseville. He said he had some free time earlier in the day when he could fit my job into his schedule, and asked if he could come over straightaway. I assented. About 30 minutes later he called me again and I went down in the lift and let him into the parking garage. We put his van behind my car and came upstairs to the flat. He was aged around 30 years and had very short fair and a thick, dark beard and turned out to be both polite and informal. When we were in the lift he told me that the company I usually use for technical support had stopped providing services for hardware. I asked how this could be possible and he said something I don’t remember clearly but that was like, “I know, right?”

He had the same name as the prophet of Islam and he checked all the bits and pieces and their connections, and then sat down at the desk and configured the new screen. I offered him a glass of water but he declined. He wasn’t happy with the frequency the screen was operating at and did something to the computer to increase it so that cursor movement was less jerky. He chose a set of dimensions for the image and asked me if it was suitable. I had a look at TweetDeck with the settings he had chosen and I could see enough columns, so I told him it was fine. Then he installed a new version of the BIOS for the computer that he had found on the manufacturer’s website. He asked me about the paintings on the walls and I said that they had been bought but that when I was young I had made art and had wanted to go to art school, but that my father had made me go to university instead.

I told him that I had had a lot of trouble with computer hardware in recent years. The PC he was using was the third in a series that the retailer had supplied me with. Each time I get a new tower it works fine for about six months then something goes wrong. I usually have to take it back to the store to get it fixed, which can take more than a week depending on the fault, and which normally results in them issuing a replacement unit. With the current one, I had to halfway remove the headphone jack from the socket in order to get sound to emerge on the headset. If you push the jack all the way in you can’t hear anything. He told me that the short lifespan of electronic equipment was intentional and that electronics manufacturers were “criminals”. He said that his company also supplied computers that they build using trade parts.

My brother was an expert with technology, I told him, but I was hopeless, hence my always calling technicians to come and fix equipment. He said that that might be true but that my brother might not be very good with art and books. I said that my brother read science fiction. He told me he was not a big one for books either, and went back to the computer screen and the task at hand.

When he had finished he asked if he could take the old monitor and I agreed. I gave him all of its cables and we went down in the lift to the ground floor where his van had been parked. In the lift he asked me what I had planned for the rest of the day. I told him I would probably read a book and then have a quiet dinner alone. In the garage, he put the monitor in the back of his van, which had the company name painted on its panels, then I explained how to get to the garage exit. I told him I would meet him there to let him out then walked through the garage to the front doors. When he appeared in the van I opened the roller door and waved goodbye, then got in the lift and went home to use my computer.

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