Kylie Crockart: A Widow's Tale

Computer widow and widowers alike, I am one of the many. I understand how you all feel. I have been in bed waiting for my partner while he does "just one more line of code" or "just look at one more site" or even worse, "just 10 more minutes on this round of "Freeciv". I have waited while my partner finishes something off and I know that we were running late for an appointment. I feel your pain.

Being a computer widow or widower is a role that we immediately take up when we say that we want to be with our loved one. We see the triumphs when a piece of programming they have written works, and we feel the sense of failure when their computer comes crashing down around them. Even the non-hacking types who spend endless hours on their machines working or using the Internet spend many hours sitting in a darkened room looking at the monitor and tapping constantly on their keyboard. They are all tarred with the same brush no matter if they have a degree or they are just weekend users. No, I am not computer literate, but I do know my way around one.

I have sat in endless meetings and conferences just to spend a little more time with my partner. I have felt the freezing cold fingers on my back after many hours of him working hard on his machine. I have tried to learn the basic components of programming so I could actually understand some of the terms he uses when he tells me how his day was. I have sat in a roomful of computer types and tried to listen to the endless praises of my partner's work. I have noticed that some, (not all) of these people don't have whole lot of social skills, because they are so used to sitting behind a monitor and conversing via E-mail.

Yes, I have seen many widow and widowers a like sitting and listening. Sure, some of them have known exactly what these people have said and they understand the triumphs, but still they go to bed alone and wait like I do. When I hear all the technical terms of the ins and outs of programming, I sit there trying to grasp a small portion of it. I sit there and smile and try to look supportive and understanding, but all I end up looking like is a grinning cheshire cat.

I had the opportunity to read some of the columns that he has written. All I had to do was try to understand them, because I was the type of non-computer person that he was aiming for. I spent an hour or two on each of these columns trying to understand and put all the bits of information that he had told me and all the columns I had read earlier into some sort of order. If I do say so myself, I think that I did a very good job at it!

No matter how hard your partner tries to include you in this three-way relationship, you always feel as though somehow you are missing out on something. Yes, I was jealous of the time he spent with his machine. Yes, sometimes I wanted to just throw his laptop out the car window. Yes, most times I didn't want to go to meetings or sit with his adoring fans and listen to how wonderful he and his work was. Please don't get me wrong; I am extremely proud of my partner's work and I am proud of him.

Many a times his work took him away from me for weeks at a time, lecturing in America, Germany or even interstate in Australia. I used to think that with such modern technology why couldn't they just read it on the internet or go into cyberspace and see him like that. Then my rational mind took over. Yes, I did miss him, but I knew he would be back in a few weeks. These people wanted to hear what he had to say and ask questions and find out more knowledge, so they could go back home to their partners and implement all the "stuff" that they learnt and spend hours on their machines yet again.

This may all sound negative, but there are many wonderful experiences that I have had. I have had the opportunity to travel to America and spend some time with some highly intelligent people. I have had the opportunity to see the cutting edge of modern technology. I have met the writers of Enlightenment! I have even spent time on his laptop learning how to write a program of naughts and crosses. Admittedly, I didn't finish, because I just got completely lost after the first 10 steps. I have read "how to" guides and computer-orientated novels like: "Microserfs" (excellent book) and "Basic Programming in C++". I have even attempted "Linux in a Nutshell", really to no success at all.

I have even had the opportunity to watch and learn how to organise a hackers conference. I even did a little bit to help. Not much, mind you, but I think that I did help a bit. It was amazing to see how much effort is put into these conferences. I remember going into the office and helping collate all the handouts and thinking, this is some really interesting stuff, even though I got lost after the title page. I got to sit and listen to these people talk about how good this conference was and how great it was to have some highly recognised overseas guests. I was extremely proud of my partner, even though he was completely stressed out for the whole week and months before it actually happened.

One of the gifts that I have been given is a Palm Pilot. I couldn't believe it. I actually had to read the manual to use it properly. My partner taught me how to download programs from his laptop to my Palm Pilot. I thought that I was truly amazing because I started to do it by myself. I have even learnt how to use the Internet and how to send E-mail. I must be an expert, surely I am?? Yes, I am proud of my computer toy. It has helped me fit in to many meetings and social outings with computer types. All I had to do was pull it out and they were all impressed. Even though I have put Whinnie the Pooh stickers on it! Strange, but true.

Being a successful partner to a computer type is not as easy as it sounds. You have to have the patience of a priest, the kindness of a mother, the stubbornness of a mule and a love that can take that extra computer "mistress". You must be ready to hear the words "I can't go out tonight because I have to work on?????" or even, "you go to bed first I won't be long". You have to learn a bit how their mind works. These people are very analytical and logical. They are so used to being exact with their wording to the computer, so some are going to carry that into their home life. When they convince themselves that they love you, you know they do and unfortunately that happens the opposite way as well when you least expect it.

When you are with these amazing human beings, remember one thing; don't stop them in the middle of something because it will take twice as long for them to go back and start over again. The reason is this: they are working as fast as their brains give them the information and if you stop that flow, they will forget the chain of thought that they were on and then they will have to start it all again to see if they can get to the same conclusion they were at before.

Being a computer widow or widower isn't really that bad. Yes, the computer sometimes gets more attention than you do, but when your partner has finished for the night; (usually at 3:00 am), you get their undivided attention until the next E-mail comes in or the newest kernel is released. Seriously though, it is a much better than your partner going out `til all hours of the night and doing who knows what.' At least he is sitting near you and every now and again remembers that you are there and reaches out to touch you.

Unfortunately or even fortunately, these computer type people have drive and determination. The reason why I say unfortunately is because at the moment my partner is no longer with me, because there was a huge opportunity interstate for him and he couldn't refuse. I am still extremely proud of what he does and what he will do in the future. He has not let anything (not even a knee reconstruction) or anyone stand in the way of his career. Remember, if your partner is a computer type, don't let go of them because they can give you so much love with this determination and drive; even when they aren't there.

So fellow widows and widowers, I hope that you realise that you aren't alone in this battle between technology and your partner. There are others like us the world round sitting and waiting for Linus to release yet another stable kernel so our partners can work another few hours per night. Take comfort in the hope that maybe in the year 2000 you might have more time with your partners. Only kidding guys!

Kylie Crockart