Watch where your fingers are walking or they might fall into a hole so deep it ends in a help center on the other side of the world.

From the very beginning of personal computing, we met beginners who said, “I’m afraid I’ll break it.” Nonsense, we said, you can’t break it just by striking keys. Well now, because of the magic of new operating systems, you can.

Joy’s new Windows 8 computer took a header into the unknown depths recently when she innocently experimented with her keyboard. There’s a tiny crescent on the “F2” key that came with her “HP Pavilion 23 All-in-One.”  She pressed it and the “function” key at the same time to see what would happen. What happened is the screen went dark. After a brief time, she saw a message that said the system was now going into automatic repair, which it did, and stayed there forever.  Thank heavens these systems are designed by highly-paid professionals.

Time to call tech support! A very polite Indian started by asking her to run an 80-minute test on the machine. An hour and a half later, just as she suspected, there was nothing wrong with the computer. But there sure was something wrong with the Windows 8 software. She was told she needed to buy a $16 recovery disk.

She was then transferred to someone who would sell her that disk. But he told her, no, the recovery disk was free, but she should  buy a two-year warranty plan for $230. When she demurred, the tech guy told her in a very firm voice: “Do you have any idea what it costs to replace the computer’s motherboard?” Actually, we do know what it costs, and it’s less than the $230 warranty. Joy hung up. If we weren’t using Vonage for our calls, by the way, we might have had some severe long distance charges.

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