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Technology is great when it works: Jerry Nelson

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jerry nelson

Mark Twain was an avid fan of technology. He was so enamored of new inventions that, by 1894, he had invested $300,000 (seven gazillion bucks in today’s dollars) in a mind-bogglingly complex contraption called the Paige Compositor.

The Paige Compositor was a bust and Twain lost his entire investment. He later wrote of his inventor, James Paige, “He could persuade a fish to come out and take a walk with him. When he is present I always believe him: I can’t help it. When he is gone away all the belief evaporates. He is a most daring and majestic liar.”

I, too, am prone to embracing the latest technology. As such, I can feel Twain’s pain.

The arrival of the Computer Age was supposed to alleviate much of mankind’s suffering, especially the agony caused by our species’ tragic lack of a built-in spellchecker. Like the Paige Compositor, the principles behind computers look great on paper. And like the Paige Compositor, computers are so mind-numbingly complex that nobody can understand them.