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Al Martinez

Tales of Wally and the Beav

September 18, 1986|Al Martinez

Good news. My Tandy 1200 computer is in perfect condition. My Hayes modem is in tip-top shape. My General Telephone system checks out flawlessly. Then how come, I'm wondering, can't I compute?

It's this way.

Two years ago, in order to facilitate my career as a newspaper columnist, I purchased the aforementioned Tandy computer and Hayes internal modem because I was told it was the sweetest team since Wally and the Beav.

The idea was that I could write at home and, through the glory of God and the telephone company, blip my words directly to the Los Angeles Times, which would then check them for filth and impropriety and process them accordingly.

Neat? You bet.

Except it doesn't work. Well, to be fair, it did work for several months, then Wally and the Beav, as it were, went awry. The modem wouldn't dial.

I called the Radio Shack, which had sold me the Tandy.

"It's the software," I was told.

I called the L.A. Times, which had furnished the software.

"It's the hardware," I was told.

Well now.

I am a methodical man, given to step-by-step evaluation of systems in the house that do not function. I turn the switch off and on. I jiggle the plug. I pound the ball of my hand against it.

But my telecommunications program continued to function only sporadically.

When I phoned Radio Shack again, the person who answered the phone said lightly, "Oh, we don't even make that model anymore."

"Are you telling me," I began slowly, "that I own a machine you have since found to be useless junk?"

I felt like the owner of an Edsel the day after it was discontinued.

"No, no," the person said, "but you'll have to take it to a Tandy repair shop."

Fair enough. I hauled the whole system to the Tandy shop and explained everything to the young lady who blinked and said, "Oh, dear."

I found her concern touching, but somehow that did not convince me she understood.

I then explained the entire problem to a repairman who listened patiently but never said a word.

When my oral dissertation is greeted with silence, I tend to babble on into areas of which I know nothing, hoping that at some point I will be acknowledged.

I spoke for several minutes and then the man said, "It don't work?"

I said, "Right, it don't work."

Days later I was informed that my computer was ready and that it checked out perfectly. I took it home and hooked it up. The modem didn't work.

"We don't check modems," Tandy said when I called.

"That's the only reason I brought the damned thing in," I said. "Why didn't you tell me that before?"

"We don't check those," he said again.

So I hauled it all to the Computer Store where I bought the modem.

"Works fine," the repairman said. "See for yourself."

I saw for myself. It worked fine.

"You ever park your head?" he asked.

I thought it was something dirty so I said, "Probably."

"Not probably," he said. "You either park your head or you don't."

"I don't know what the hell you're talking about," I said.

He sighed. "Never mind." Then he said, "If I were you, I'd check the phone company. Your line is garbled."

So I did.

I talked to Chick and Dick and Earl and Steve and Bob, and possibly to some others whose names I did not write down.

General Telephone checked my line inside and they checked my line outside and they even changed a phone jack, I think, and then they said, "There you go, everything's fine."

So I came home that night and turned the old Tandy on and hit a couple of keys and it was exactly as before. It didn't work.

Not only did it not work then, but it has hardly functioned at all ever since.

I have had the modem replaced, changed phone lines, lighted candles and generally attempted everything within my limited power to restart telecommunications. I even tried different baud rates and I don't even know what the hell a baud rate is.

"You've got to help me," I said to the Times computer expert.

He detected the tremor in my voice. "There, there," he said.

He came to the house one night. I poured him my finest wine. Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 1973. I served him potage aux herbes. Pieds de cochon. Buche de Noel.

Then we walked into my home office and hovered over my 1200.

"What'd you do to it?" he asked suspiciously.

I expected more for my cochon.

"I didn't do anything," I said.

"Crank 'er up," he said.

I cranked 'er up. It worked. Not just that one time, but time after time after time.

I felt I had just witnessed a miracle of transmogrification. He had turned stone into bread, water into wine.

"God bless Wally and the Beav," I said.

The next morning it didn't work.

I don't expect it will ever work again. Tonight I am going to go home and smash in the screen and use the monitor for a planter.

I just don't care anymore. And to hell with Wally and the Beav.

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