Durham County

Neil Offen: Tech as in wreck

It’s a sobering thought, but in my house I am generally considered the tech expert — the technology guru, if you will, or even if you won’t.

I won this title, and the diamond-studded earbuds that go with it, by figuring out that the desktop computer in the office wouldn’t turn on because the cleaning people had turned down the light switch. Admittedly, it did take me several days to figure this out, and to remember we had cleaning people. It also took an accidental bump against the light switch.

But no one else had figured this out — which tells you something about the high-tech capabilities within the household.

Also, I should mention, the kids had long ago moved out of the house, taking with them all knowledge of how to record a television show while watching another television show and what MP3 stands for. That left just my wife and me, and she is still working on how to set the clock radio alarm for 7:30 a.m. not p.m. (We’re both pretty good with the toaster, though.)

So, yes, I was, indeed, the tech guru only by default, but that didn’t stop me from letting the title, and the earbuds, nevertheless go to my head.

Because of that inflated sense of technological competence, I believed I surely would be capable of figuring out recently how to print documents from my laptop, if I could connect the laptop to the printer wirelessly. This was an attractive idea because it meant I didn’t have to use any wires. (Wires are outside my field of competence.) And I wouldn’t have to remember to turn on any light switches.

Meanwhile, the printer was already here, and functioning, at the bottom of the desk, already connected to the desktop computer, already printing, as long as someone already had remembered to replace the ink cartridges.

According to the instructions I found online, to get this all up and working, all I had to do was …

First, open the control panel. I wasn’t specifically told which control panel, so I opened them all — on the desktop, the laptop, the printer, the toaster. I was able to re-set the toaster to extra-wide so that it worked with bagels.

Then, I was told, I had to “select devices and printers,” which brought me to a long list of “devices and printers,” none of which I remotely recognized or thought that I had ever bought. Then, the instructions said, you were supposed to "add a network, wireless or Bluetooth printer.” I decided to add CBS, although I would have preferred the Comedy Channel.

The final step was supposed to be selecting the network printer from the list of available printers. My printer was not on the list of available printers.

It turns out, after actually reading the instruction manual for the printer, which I had filed under “items I will never look at or understand,” that my printer is so old it cannot work wirelessly. It needs wires.

Fortunately, at least the light switch was on.

Neil Offen can be reached at theneiloffencolumn@yahoo.com. Past columns can be found at www.theneiloffencolumn.wordpress.com.