Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Treating the symptom, not the cause

At the store where I work, I get some interesting customers sometimes. Like the lady who wanted to know if our voice recorders could pick up conversations through a jacket so she could catch her husband saying bad things in the process of a messy divorce. Or the well dressed guy in the sea captain's hat who keeps coming back often to ask about large format printers to add to his expensive array at home.
One conversation with a customer has stuck with me for a few weeks, and just now I was in front of the computer when I remembered it. He wanted to know if there was a way to lock his PC so his kid couldn't use the computer while he was away at work. Apparently the kid had been skipping school and instead playing games at home. He told me he'd tried hiding mice and keyboards, but invariably the kid found them, and the father suspected that the son would buy his own if he took them to work. I suggested a BIOS password, but the kid sounded like he was good with computers, and could find a workaround. I was at a loss, and I think he was too.
Computers are such a huge part of everyday life that if I had suggested selling it a friend and going without one (which on it's own wouldn't be a totally absurd suggestion) he would have thought I was nuts. If it was an alcohol addiction, I'm sure he'd pour out all the booze in the house. But computer dependency in day to day life has reached the point where the line is becoming blurred with addiction. It's spooky, and tragic picturing a kid skipping out of class and sacrificing his future for a few more hours of Everquest (or whatever the kids are playing these days).

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