The World is Job-less, Illegal Operations and other Computer Hazards

Posted by

In 2006, I bought my first ever iDevice – a first generation iPod Nano. That conked this year, no doubt to the violent manhandling or baby-handling by my daughter. So I promptly caved in and purchased an iPod Touch. My husband, not to be outdone, bought the iPhone 3GS and morphed into an Apple fanboy overnight. 

I wouldn’t dare compose a eulogy when far better ones are already out there. Instead, I offer the following piece that is technology-inspired: 

Illegal Operations

In 1998, the latest OS from the stable of Microsoft – Windows 98 – burst onto the scene. Its greatest contribution to the computing era has been, without a doubt, the ‘Illegal operation’ message. Every so often, regardless of what software I was tinkering with on the computer, it would suddenly spring forth the infamous ‘This program has performed an illegal operation and will shut down’, followed by a technical description of whatever heinous crime I had committed. This infuriated me at first, as I have never done anything illegal in my life. But gradually I learnt to take it in my stride. It is just one of those things you cannot avoid, like getting spanked by your boss for something you didn’t do (but were supposed to, of course).

But I liked the confidence behind the message. The computer insisted on shutting itself down and told you so in no uncertain terms, lest you harbour any hope of its recovery. But the advent of Windows 7 has eliminated that problem, so whatever you do on your computer you can rest assured that it is a legal operation. 

Once you have mastered the computer and its intricacies, there are other hazards to deal with, namely, e-mail. 

The E-mails versus the Females

An ingenious individual came up with the following variation on a quote by Rudyard Kipling: 

The email of the species is deadlier than the mail.

Mr. Kipling may or may not have been pleased to see his gems thus distorted, but upon reflection he would arrived at the same conclusion as millions of email users the world over – that it is nothing but the gospel truth.

While registering for an email account you glimpse an idea of exactly how many unfortunate souls in the world possess names similar to yours. Ten years ago when the internet started gaining popularity even in our power-starved cities, I believed that the number of people with my kind of name would be so few that I could count them on one hand. The email address would be mine for the taking. But when all the popular email providers like Yahoo, Hotmail and Rediff declined to offer me the address of my choice, then I realized my ghastly name was commoner than I had thought. 

So I resorted to the only option left to me – stick in a few foreign objects like ‘_’ or ‘.’ between the names. I went with the underscore – I thought it added a bit of character to the address. 

But just having an email address is never enough. You have to circulate it amongst your friends to actually receive any mail. Announcing the address to the tech-savvy is effortless, but trying to explain it to a technophobe like my dear father is a different ball game altogether. 

Shortly after creating my spanking new email account, I needed some information from my father urgently. When I requested him for it he immediately outlined to me the standard procedure – he would dictate it to his secretary who would type it, take a printout, and courier it over to me ASAP. 

I dared to suggest to him that instead of sending across a single ream of paper two thousand miles, that too one that didn’t even require any signature, why didn’t he try sending the necessary information in an email instead? 

He hung up the phone, saying he would ask his secretary for more details. Ten minutes later he called to say that, lo and behold, he too had an official email address, but he just didn’t know it all this time! 

The conversation thenceforward proceeded as follows:

Me: So far so good, why don’t you take down my email address?

Dad: But when did you get your email address?

Me: When I was inDelhi, I registered for one.

Dad: But you are in Pune now, so don’t you need a new one?

Me(tearing hair) No, that’s the purpose. If I needed a new one here, how would it be different from a postal address?

Dad(befuddled): Ok ok, don’t tell me all this technical nonsense!

Me: I haven’t even got technical yet!

Dad: Ok doesn’t matter, now tell me your email address?

Me: Yes, it’s g-a-r-g-i-underscore…

Dad: Underscore? What underscore? Don’t tell me underscore shunderscore, just tell me the address.

Little wonder that I lost fifty percent of the hair on my head on that day itself. 

But not to worry, I lost the remainder of my silky tresses after a similar conversation, conducted not too long afterwards, with my mother: 

Mom: Beta, I have seen a wonderful job ad in the paper. They have even given an email address. Should I give it to you?

Me: Yes

Mom: Ok write it down, w-w-w-dot…

Me: What?? Are you giving me the website address or the email address?

Mom: There’s no difference, it’s all the same thing.

Me: No Mom, tell me the one that doesn’t start with the ‘www’.

Mom(after frantic searching): Ok it is, careers, c-a-r-e-e-r-s…

Me: Yes…

Mom: a inside a circle…

Me: What??? What is this about ‘a inside circles’?

Mom: I don’t know! That’s what’s written here, it’s a squiggly thing that looks like a circle with an ‘a’ sitting inside it.

Me: Oh God, Mom, that’s pronounced ‘at-the-rate’

The best thing about e-mail is how well it complements telephonic communication. With the advent of e-mail, people can not just send and receive messages through the internet, but they can also call each other up to talk about its contents! Wasn’t that some beautiful pink stationery they had used as the background? How well it suited the purple font of the message itself! 

But you must excuse me now – my boss is calling me to discuss the email proposal I sent him.




  1. Ah, a trip down memory lane! I remember the “illegal” operations all to well. 🙂

    Your post also reminds me of how my dad checks his mail: by standing 4 feet away from my computer and asking my mum (who is reasonably tech-savvy) to do it for him!


    1. Haha I like that one about your dad! Most parents seem equally techno-phobic and for some reason resistant to any suggestions to get training.


  2. Good one, illegal operations and all. My 90+ dad too has his own e-mail, used at one time for some official reason, and now forgotten and probably defunct 🙂 And after reading this, I’m remebering my own early close encounters with e-mail in the late nineties, when I had to call tech savvy neighbourhood bacchas for help on several occasions


    1. Wow, your dad sounds amazing! My 70+ dad has mastered the art of surfing the net and answering email but my mom definitely needs help!


  3. Wow! Your email conversation with your mom and dad cracks me up! I literally fell out of my chair with laughter. LOL!

    This is a very nice way to pay tribute to Mr. Jobs. He has contributed immensely to this great world of ours.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s