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Saturday, August 12, 2006

FARfetched Faith Healing

I got a new power brick for my iBook the other day, and the new battery should be shipped as soon as I resolve a credit card issue with the vendor. All the fun I’ve been having with my computers lately makes this an appropriate time to tell this story.

My first encounter with a Mac was 1985, when we replaced our VT100-clone terminals (connected to a VAX) with “Fat Macs.” Those were the ones with a whopping 512K of RAM, a seemingly-extravagent amount of memory for those times. The trend of the time was decentralization — throwing off the tyranny of IT (which was “MIS” in those days) and taking care of our own needs. I’ll write more about our motivations, and the trade-offs we accepted, some other time.

As I’ve said in the past, my relationship with the Mac was not exactly love at first sight — while I loved having “my own computer,” I chafed at its limitations and propensity to crash. But it was new territory, and I forged ahead to see what it could do. Sometimes, being a day ahead can make all the difference between the “Mac Guru” and the befuddled co-worker.

I’m not sure when the spooky stuff started. First, I would figure out a pattern of non-intuitive clicks and keystrokes that would untangle a snarled program — normal enough for a button-pusher. But then, problems would go away as soon as I touched the keyboard. Then it started happening when I talked to the “owner” on the phone. But the craziest thing was when people told me they could get things working right by threatening to call me!

I’m a fairly rational guy, for being a Christian. I believe that there is an order to things, even to the supernatural — but I also believe we haven’t quite nailed down the natural order, and don’t have a clue about the supernatural. So I’ll admit that it made me a little uncomfortable when touching a computer, or someone invoking my name over it, would make it start working right. But time went on and I found other work, at a place where IT didn’t need a faith-healer, and it became a joke of sorts.

So a few years back, the people that eventually became our renters asked me to check out their daughter’s computer. It was an early Pentium-based Aptiva, with “soft” power (like many computers nowadays, it can be turned on or off by software). So I came by, and the daughter showed me the computer. Sure enough, it wouldn’t power on. I disconnected everything and pulled the cover off, thinking I might find a blown fuse. Not finding one, I told the kid, “Sometimes you can just lay hands on the motherboard” — doing so — “and say, ‘BE HEALED!’” She laughed. Then I plugged everything in, hit the power button, and it started right up.

“You weren’t kidding!” she gasped. She was almost as surprised as I was. (Most likely, unplugging the power allowed the startup circuitry to reset, and I told her that.)

What allows me to laugh it all off — even when I recently learned that people still use my name to make their computers straighten up — is that it doesn’t seem to work on my own gear. Then again, when I have a problem, it tends to be a big one — often requiring a new power supply, or rebuilding the hard drive. Maybe it’s a case of the shoemaker’s children going barefoot. Or maybe God is just reminding me that I’m really not all that.


  1. FARfetched where were you when my computer crashed in Dec. Maybe a little long distance healing would have done the trick.

  2. I could have called you... that has been known to work. :-P

  3. Maybe you could use your "powers" on my backyard.


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