Published: March 14, 1996

DEAR Boss,

I'm happy to tell you I'm feeling a little better now. I've had some time to try and piece together what actually happened during that terrible dark incident on Monday. I'd like to come to terms with it and move on. The folks here have been very understanding and very encouraging. There was even some talk today about letting me go back to work at the Mercury News someday. I don't know how you and the big bosses feel about that . . .

I realize now that I was in denial on Monday. Looking back now, I know that memos were sent, meetings were held and contingency plans were in place. But, like a proud homeowner whose dream house lies in the shadow of a volcano or on the edge of an earthquake fault, I could not come to grips with the enormity of the terror I faced. I couldn't bring myself to think the unthinkable.

I knew the office remodeling and the move from old cubicles to new would bring stress to my life. But when I came in and found my new desk on Monday morning, when I saw that Compaq Prolinea 5100 sitting there next to my trusty old Macintosh, I just blanked. My first thought when I saw the flashing DOS prompt was: ''This is a TOOL OF THE DEVIL. AND IT IS IN MY OFFICE. SOME TERRIBLE MISTAKE HAS BEEN MADE.''

Howard poked his head over the barrier and saw me quaking violently. ''Just type 'WIN' and you get Windows!'' he chirped. What I understood this to mean was: ''Just fondle the tool of Satan and electronic Beelzebub will chew your ears off and suck out your cerebral cortex!''

Thanks to some intensive meetings here, I'm ''in touch'' with those feelings, I ''own'' them and I understand now that I mis-heard Howard. Still, there it was: Windows 3.1, complete with a full complement of Windows applications and utilities. The Fate Worse Than Death. The Darkness That Blots Out the Rainbow. The Plague of Bill Gates.

It had finally befallen me.

Now, boss, I know I wasn't the only one in that room to feel some anxiety that day. Even non-Macolytes who had grown used to the Merc's old proprietary command-line setup were exhibiting classic white-knuckles-on-the-keyboard syndrome. These new Windows boxes were the only way into the editorial system, a bed of hot coals between us and our work. Techs and systems czars large and small swarmed over the room, moving from cubicle to cubicle like trauma surgeons in the triage area of a very bloody battlefield hospital. It was all they could do to keep the walking wounded walking and the moribund from feeling too much pain.

If I live a thousand years, I won't be able to forget the cries of the dying. ''TCP/IP not initialized!'' ''Software trap PC 0773!'' ''They've taken off my back delete key!'' All the techs could do was murmur words of comfort and move on. ''There, there, be brave. Just double-click on the commands help . . . Easy, son. You'll pull through. Here, bite on this Windows tutorial in your main window . . .''

Of course, there was a training session. There's always a training session. To a Macolyte, a hardcore adherent of the Rainbow Covenant, this was like handing out Band-Aids and Valium to a person who's just had her legs blown off! I ask you: Will any amount of training fix scroll bars that just aren't quite right, windows that aren't quite right, file names that aren't quite right? Will training fix the evil that is ''Program Manager''? OK, deep breaths, deep breaths, go to the safe place, the safe place . . .

I don't remember all that much after that. I remember getting really dizzy and feeling as if I was looking at that Windows desktop through a long black tube. I remember asking a couple of co-workers ''So, where's the garbage can?'' and being told there was no garbage can in Windows. The folks here who have seen my intake report tell me that when I was brought in, I was still mumbling ''I want the garbage can. I need the garbage can. I want the Finder. I need the Finder.''

I'm sure that with enough time, I'll be able to fully recount what happened and move, as they say in group, ''toward closure.''

They don't let me wear my boots here, just soft hospital slippers. Still, if you get a chance to visit (visiting days are Sundays and Thursdays) could you bring my boots anyway? I have this nagging feeling one of them may still be stuck in the Compaq monitor. That's the last place I remember seeing it when those security folks came for me.

Well, I have to go now. The orderly is telling me it's art therapy time and they're very big on punctuality. If I get there promptly, I can usually get one of the PowerPC 8500s loaded with Photoshop. If I'm late, Nurse Amy usually makes me use a IIvx with KidPix. I hate KidPix.

They don't have any Windows machines here, boss . . .

YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN'T HIDE: Each new technology we choose to adopt has the potential to enslave us. The personal telecommunications devices so dear to us - pagers, laptops, cell phones - are, to my mind, the most pernicious threat of all. You just knew it was only a matter of time before two of these electronic leashes would become tangled, right? CompuServe has just announced a new scheme to allow members to receive e-mail via pagers. Now, if you really need to e-mail when he's away from his terminal, you can send mail to and know he'll get it virtually anywhere.

The service costs CompuServe members a $5 registration fee. Unless pager service is through one of three firms partnered with CompuServe, the service also costs an additional $4.95 a month and 25 cents per message. (See GO PAGER.) Users can elect to limit message length, number of messages and when they receive the forwarded e-mail. (Imagine the poor sap who doesn't bother to set the parameters and stops midway through an orgasmic-great ski run only to receive 20 kilobytes of the infamous ''MAKE MONEY FAST'' chain letter.)

INFORMATION, PLEASE: Amateur sleuths looking for old friends and lost loves may wish to dial up the new Switchboard service. The free directory, at, features 90 million white-pages listings culled from phone books across the United States in a format searchable by name, city or state. This should be a welcome supplement to, CompuTrace, the ProCD Directory Search and all the other on-line meta-directories. It should also give the pricey CD-ROM-based phone directories a run for their money.

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