Oh, drat these computers! They don’t have enough holes!


As technology progresses, our devices have more and more features, something we’ve come to expect. We don’t have flying cars, but our phones do cool things.

But today I’m kind of frustrated that computer makers keeping taking features away.

Sure, mostly the stuff they ditch is stuff we don’t need any more. Like floppy disk drives. But even then, I hate to see them go. The first time I went to buy a computer after that trend started, I paid extra to have a floppy drive added in a vacant drive slot of the desktop.

But I only did it that once. On the next few machines I bought, I didn’t fret about the lack of such a feature. It still bothered me, though, that I had shoeboxes full of floppies containing data I could not access. Finally, a few months ago I bought an external floppy drive from Amazon — it only cost about 10 bucks — and when it came, I spent a couple of hours popping in disks from those shoeboxes, and I found that… I really didn’t need any of that stuff after all.

So I guess the industry knew what it was doing there.

I’m less sanguine about some of the more recent omissions. (Did I use that right? Should I have said “phlegmatic?” I get those confused.)

You know how I told you I bought a new laptop last month? It’s great and all that, but the freaking thing only has two USB ports! When I bought it, I decided that was OK. After all, my last laptop before that one only had three, which had worried me so much when I first got it that I ordered a USB hub that converts one USB orifice into four. And for awhile, I made heavy use of it, plugging in all sorts of peripherals.

But I had noticed that I hadn’t taken the hub out of my laptop bag in maybe a year, so maybe two would be enough. Maybe. Even though, if you’re me, that means you only have one. That’s because the other one is in use all the time for my mouse. I’m physically incapable of using a touchpad. The first thing I do when I sit down at a computer that has one is disable it, because I can’t keep the heels of my hands from touching it as I type, and making all sorts of insane things happen to the document I’m trying to write — including occasionally defining the whole document and deleting it (and I’m not even sure how I’m doing that, but it happens).

So, I have one free USB port.

And that would be fine if certain other features weren’t missing.

First, I got the computer home and had been using it for a couple of hours — installing software and the like — when something dawned on me: It didn’t have a DVD drive!

OK, that’s cool. I hadn’t used one of those in a year or two, either, so… no biggie.

But then, one of the first days I used the new machine at the office, I kept losing the wifi signal. One of my ADCO colleagues suggested that I plug in the Ethernet cable, which we still have in our offices.

Good idea! Except… there was no receptacle for an Ethernet cable! I kept turning the thing over, this way and that, and no — no hole that shape. Although there’s an HDMI port — why, I don’t know. (I mean, I already have a high-def monitor — it’s attached and everything. It even has a touch screen.) And while hunting, I also noticed there was no SD card slot for the card that goes to the old digital Canon I sometimes still use at work.

I was pretty practiced at rationalizing away these problems at this point. I told myself I took better pictures with my iPhone, anyway — and I do. But in part of my brain, I’m going, I paid full price for this machine! Why doesn’t it have basic, relatively cheap, low-tech stuff that every other computer I’ve bought over the past decade had?

This nagged at me, and eventually I went back to Best Buy to see if I could take this machine back and trade it for one that still had some of these homely amenities. But the other models at the store were similarly bereft. I kept picking laptops up and turning them this way and that, and while a few of them did have SD slots, they weren’t overly endowed with USB ports, and none of them had Ethernet cable apertures.

So I kept the one I had bought.

A few days later, I needed to scan something from my home printer. I have this awesome Canon printer that does everything, and even has a multipage feeder on top, which is wonderful because I scan multipage documents pretty frequently. I love it. I’ve had it for four years, and just a couple of weeks ago replaced the toner cartridge for the first time!

But I couldn’t seem to get the drivers for it to load on the new laptop. Since I bought the super-duper Geek Squad coverage, I got them on it. One of those poor geeks spent a couple of hours trying to get me set up, but he finally installed a different scanner driver, telling me it was newer and better.

It isn’t. It’s OK for PDFs, but the scan quality on photos is really poor. And I’m really, really into good photo quality. This app was made for amateurs, for the kind of people who decades ago used Instamatics — and were satisfied — when I was starting to process my own 35mm film.

But wait! In the file cabinet in my home office, I found the original software DVD that goes with my printer!

Now, if only I had a DVD drive on this computer….

Fine. I’ll order an external one from Amazon. And eventually, I’ll probably get an SC reader and an Ethernet adapter for days when the Wi-Fi is acting up. Which, if I also add a thumb drive, will totally fill up my USB hub.

But it doesn’t seem like I should have to do all this. Computers should come with more holes in them. Is that really too much to ask?


6 thoughts on “Oh, drat these computers! They don’t have enough holes!

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Since no one else is interested in commenting on this (I probably should stop trying so hard to bring up topics unrelated to presidential politics), I will…

    Here’s another way in which advancing technology does NOT progress…

    Why can’t I play old computer games — games I have from 10, 15, 25 years ago and which I really enjoyed — on modern computers?

    I’m talking about:

    • The original Wolfenstein 3D, a first-person shooter game that came on a floppy disk.
    • Warcraft II, which was FAR better than Warcraft III and everything after it.
    • Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator, in which you could fight air battles over Europe in real time.
    • Caesar III — a really awesome sim game in which you built up a provincial Roman city from scratch, until eventually the emperor got mad at you and sent his legions after you. Which meant while you were struggling to keep wages high and taxes low and make sure every neighborhood had basic amenities, you had to build up your own military forces as fast as possible, or you wouldn’t be able to hold them off.

    And so much more.

    But I haven’t been able to run those games on any version of Windows that has come along since, I’m thinking, the execrable Windows Millennium Edition.

    Why does it work that way? It seems like it would be the easiest thing in the world for games built for more primitive operating systems to work on more advanced ones.

    But they don’t. Or at least, they didn’t for awhile. Maybe that’s changed. Has it?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Doug, in keeping with his New Years resolution, responded to the above comment in an email instead of here.

      He informed me that Wolfenstein 3D is available, for only about $5, via Steam:


      Which is way cool. I see that Caesar III is also available for a reasonable sum.

      It’s good that they’re on Steam because I already have a Steam account, so I consider it a safe option.

      I know there are plug-ins and such you can download from other sites to play old games, but they kind of scare me.

      One that that really bugs me… I have Call of Duty:WWII, which I enjoy but find really hard to play. I’d like to go back and play its predecessor, Call of Duty: World At War. I bought the game back when it first came out — for 50 bucks — and I think it’s still installed on my most recent old laptop.

      But here’s the problem: I’ve lost the DVD, and the box it came in, which has my access code for activating it. Which means I can’t play it. Over the weekend, I tried to download something that would let me play it anyway — after all, I PAID for it — but when I went to the site, my browser warned me that the site was dangerous.

      So I backed off. I’m not going to mess up a still-serviceable computer for the sake of a game…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Oh, by the way — I can also get CODWAW from Steam, but it would cost me $20.

        I don’t want to pay that on top of the $50 I paid when it came out.

        So I guess I’ll keep searching the house for the DVD…

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Are any of y’all Call of Duty fans?

        Here’s what I like about World at War in comparison to WWII:

        The graphics were clearer and brighter. I could almost always identify an enemy AS an enemy, even at a distance. On the newer game, the lighting is always murky, and the colors are muddy, so it’s actually kind of hard to distinguish the difference between U.S. olive drab and German field gray. So I end up committing acts of friendly fire without meaning to.

        Also, the battlefield is usually less organized — less of a clear line of battle — so my comrades may show up where I don’t expect them, and get shot by me. While the enemy snuck up behind me, and I’m KIA.

        In other words, they’ve tried to create the effect of the Fog of War. But I think they went too far. I really think that in real life, I’d be able to tell the difference better when someone is 20 yards away. These scenarios are supposedly in daylight, but it’s almost like fighting at night.

        Finally, the scenarios are timed, which I hate. With the old game, if you found yourself a bit of cover, you could hunker down if you wanted and get your thoughts together. With the new game, if you don’t drive the jeep to the next town, or manage to board the German train loaded with V2 rockets, in a certain amount of time, you’re told that you failed, and have to start the mission over.

        Which I hate, and to some extent find unrealistic….

        1. James Cross

          “So I end up committing acts of friendly fire without meaning to.” You mean when you usually commit acts of friendly fire you mean to? 🙂

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Well, some of those guys in my squad are real SOBs…

            But seriously, yes, I was being redundant. But I wanted to make sure nobody thought I was fragging these guys…


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