“Fight of the Century:” Me “the Dinosaur” versus the Court Computers

“Court Case Friday”

They say, “Confession is good for the soul.”  Here are 4 embarrassing episodes when I publicly demonstrated my ignorance of modern technology.  

Round One: “You Can’t Hurt the Computer”

Shortly after becoming a judge, I needed to learn how to use the court computer.  

My first court computer had a small green-and-white screen housed in a large ugly off-white box.

These were the days of DOS (Disc Operating System). It operated by inserting two 5.25 inch bendable floppy disks: one for the program, and one for the data.

The court administrator assigned our senior tech guru to be my tutor.  I also bought the popular book, “DOS for Dummies”  

My tutor noticed my nervousness using the computer.  I was actually sweating.

He said, “Relax. You can’t hurt the computer.”  (Famous last words.)

The next morning, when I turned on the power, nothing happened.  I tried everything. Nothing worked.  It was dead.

I finally summoned my tutor.  He couldn’t get the computer to do anything either.  So, he unplugged it, loaded it onto a cart, and wheeled it down to his shop.

A few hours later he returned. 

Tutor: “Remember when I said you can’t hurt the computer?”
Me: “Yes.”
Tutor: “I was wrong. You erased the entire friggin autoexec.bat !” 
Me: “What’s that?”
Tutor: “It’s the startup program and root directory that runs the entire computer.”
Me: “Oops.”

Round Two: The Internet Modem

The next fiasco was when I attempted to connect my work computer to the new internet.  I bought a dial-up modem, software, and cable.

Old Dial-up Modem

I installed everything.  But when I turned on the computer, the modem made an annoying screeching noise. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get the internet to “answer.” The only way I could get the modem to stop screeching was to unplug it.  

I finally called for tech help.  Since I had burned out the old tutor the last time, they sent an enthusiastic young woman.  

After two hours of trying everything she could think of she finally asked:

Tech: “Where did you buy your modem cable?”
Me: “Modem cable?”
Tech: “Yes, modem cable.”
Me: “Oops. I didn’t know they had a special modem cable.  I just bought a cable that looked like it would fit.”

I could tell, she couldn’t decide whether to laugh, swear, or cry.

Round Three: Porn “Web Jacked”

Years later, my court computer had Windows operating system, and Internet Explorer.

I was doing some research on a Presidential Executive Order. So, I entered “whitehouse.com.” 

Suddenly, I was staring at hardcore porn.  Every time I tried to “close” or “escape” I was redirected to another porn site.  In about one minute I had logged on to dozens of porn cites on the court computer.

Using official court computers to view pornography is a big “No, No.” Embarrassed, I called “tech help.” They sent a different young woman. She found my embarrassment and frustration amusing.  She explained:

Tech: “You’ve been ‘web jacked.’”
Me: “What?”
Tech: “That’s where porn sites automatically ‘pop up’ or you are automatically redirected to other porn sites.”
Me: “How did that happen?”
Tech: “You logged onto a porn site.”
Me: “No I didn’t.”
Tech: “You entered ‘whitehouse.com,’ which is a porn cite, instead of ‘whitehouse.gov.’  ‘Com’ is for public domain. ‘Gov’ is for official government sites.”
Me: “Oops.”  

Round Four: Porn “Web Jacked” Again

Years later, I was sent a solicitation of prostitution case for jury trial. The defendant had a website where she offered sex for money. She also invited rich men to take her on a world cruise for only $100,000. The website was a key part of the evidence.

There were some tricky legal issues involving the admissibility of the website information.  (Hearsay? Lack of Foundation? Etc.)

There were a couple judges in the chambers next door.  I sought their advice. 

I asked a judge to log on to “sexygirl.com.”  Suddenly, we were staring at hardcore porn.  He got ‘web jacked.”  Every time he tried to “close”, or “escape” another porn site came up.

The judge demanded, “Brett, what did you do to me?” I realized that I gave him the wrong address.  My case was “sexxxygirl” not “sexygirl.” He threatened, “You better get his fixed, and off my computer.” I called tech services, and they “cleaned” the computer.

But I still had unanswered legal questions. When we finally got onto “sexxxygirl” it was obvious that the defendant did not look anything like her gorgeous  pictures on the site. One of the other judges said I should add the additional crimes of fraud and false advertising.

Thankfully, because of my “clean-cut Mormon” reputation, I avoided any other embarrassing consequences.

(Well, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.)

(www.londonedition.net)

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