ObamaCare Flashing 12:00
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
If you have ever owned a computer, cellphone, or push-button telephone, you should feel sympathy for the people who rolled out the ObamaCare website. They’re taking a lot of heat for doing what everyone else in technology has done. They invented something that’s maddening to use.
Really, what piece of electronics or computer programming have you ever bought that you understood, knew how to operate, and got to work as it was meant to when it came out of the box? No one knows half the functions on their telephone and millions of Americans can remember having a video recorder that flashed 12:00 because they couldn’t program it.
Every website is like a car built from scratch on the garage floor. There’s never been another one like it. I’m impressed just that the ObamaCare programmers managed to get up a home page with an attractive, healthy-looking young woman on the front page. It may have cost $400 million but I couldn’t have done it in a lifetime.
The Republicans in Congress are jumping on the flaws in the healthcare website as if it’s the only thing in Washington that doesn’t work. Politicians and journalists like to demand perfection in an imperfect world because it makes them look smart. They spend years investigating why a rocket blew up when the simple truth is that sometimes rockets blow up. If they were in charge, all rockets would blow up.
Computers and the things computers do have always been riddled with flaws. The first computer I ever owned had a green screen with this at the top left: “C:\>”. I remember looking at it asking myself, “What? What does it want, what do I tell it? What haiku will unlock the secrets?” Then someone told me to type the letters “WP” and up came the word processing program WordPerfect. I wrote on it for 20 years.
I’ve owned or worked on 25 different computers and systems. The early ones were crude and limited. I worked for a company that had a good half-dozen news writing programs and every one of them was useless for the simple task of writing a news story.
Computers and bad programs have lost my script on deadline, over modulated audio and dumped video. I once had a great computer program that stored all my phone numbers and addresses, but the company went out of business and I couldn’t transfer the information to a new computer. I had to retype 600 names, phones and addresses.
Computers and computer programs have failed me with regularity. But they have also done my taxes, sent my email, stored 8,000 pieces of music and every word I have written in the last 30 years.
There must be trouble out there somewhere with the ObamaCare website, but I couldn’t find it when I looked. I logged on, set up an account and was presented with a choice of 30 insurance plans. ObamaCare did its work, although I could use a smart computer program to decide which insurance plan is best for me.
Politicians revel in the failures and mistakes of their opponents. But the thing about computers and computer programs that don’t work is that they can be fixed and improved. You can’t say that about Congress.