Nate didn’t trust computers. Everyone called him paranoid. Nonsense. Computers had burned him three, four, five too many times for him to maintain the delusion that he could trust them.

All those photos Nate took in high school? Gone. All of them. Disappeared silently as his computer crashed. As for the hard drive he backed them up to? Turns out it had died before the computer did, and he only noticed when it mattered. In college he uploaded his new photos to a website that went out of business in a few years. He transferred them to a service ran by a much bigger company, but somehow his account was compromised and he lost all his data.

The bad guy used Nate’s password on to sign into other sites. Nate spent weeks trying to convince all the companies he called that he, not the person who had signed in and changed his password everywhere, was the real account holder.

This wasn’t just about photos, nor was the inconvenience of getting hacked or phished enough to sour Nate alone. He had lost things arguably even more priceless. Game saves. Lots of them. Many of those went away with his photos in the Great Hard Drive Failing of 2006. But before that, he had lost most of his childhood when his PlayStation memory card suddenly died and needed to be reformatted. Even in the days before games could remember progress, he had to replay many a game he had almost completed not because he died, but because someone bumped into the stand the console was on, causing the old thing to freeze.

Future save files would disappear when Nate factory reset his phone to get it to make calls again. Then the games he switched to, since there was no way he was replaying the old ones, were left stranded on his phone when he upgraded to a new one. He tried to get to the save files but couldn’t, even with root.

Speaking of rooting, that’s how Nate wrecked his second smartphone. He didn’t bother downloading any games to his third one, but he still lost stuff he didn’t realize wasn’t backed up when he dropped the thing glass first onto the corner of the sidewalk. Goodbye addresses saved in his GPS app. You too, deadlines stored in his to-do manager (that last one caused him to miss an assignment he forgot about — and it was an easy one, too).

Nate’s friends said he should probably stay away from smartphones. As cool as they were, he had no luck with them. They forgot that his luck had never been any better on PCs. Lost data aside, he had blown hundreds of dollars replacing laptops. His first had a crappy hinge. His second drowned when someone else spilled Starbucks all over his keyboard. His third, again, a crappy hinge. And all three had worthless batteries.

This grated on Nate’s nerves by the time he graduated from college, so rather than idle away on the web, he started to invest his time in an eReader instead. The e-ink display was deceptive. It looked like paper. It kind of even felt like paper. But when pixels started burning into various parts of the screen, he quickly wished he were holding a physical. The problem was that he had started to amass a sizable digital library, and he did not want to begin anew. Then he lost his eReader.

Nate didn’t have the money to replace it at the time, so he tried downloading his books to his phone instead. Turns out the app was pretty bad. There were alternatives available, but there was no way to use the books he bought in another app without going through the effort of removing all the DRM. By the time he looked up how to do such a thing, he started to feel like he didn’t really own those books at all. So he didn’t buy any books for a while, physical or otherwise.

All around, Nate’s friends were trying out Fitbits and Pebbles, Rokus and and Xboxes. Only a few had any idea how any of the stuff actually worked. He had studied computer science. He loved these things. But they didn’t love him back.

Nate wasn’t paranoid. He didn’t care about government spying and corporations owning all of his data. He didn’t concern himself with VPNs, erasing cookies, or disabling location tracking. He simply did not trust computers.

They were not resilient, incompetent, and ultimately cost way too much money. They were a constant source of headache and lost time. They had stolen from him irreplaceable memories and taken years of his life.

When people see Nate now with a flip phone and a cheap Chromebook, they get the wrong impression. He isn’t computer illiterate. Like them, He, too, knows there’s better stuff out there.

Creative Commons License
“Does Not Compute” by Bertel King, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.