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Down on the Farm: Settings

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A message from the old fogies to the younger generation: Don't mess with our settings!

Just when you get on friendly terms with your computer, some kid sits down at it and starts tapping furiously. If you don't shoo them away in thirty seconds, they will turn the machine into a foreign country so fast that you won't know which end is up.

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"But you haven’t installed the updates!" they say, incredulous that you don't care if you are up to speed on every little improvement to come in from Seattle, or wherever the computer gurus reside.

Thirty seconds is all it takes for a kid to screw up everything you take for granted. Email. News. Weather. Suddenly, it is all gone.

Oh, it's there somewhere, but it is now unavailable to anybody over twelve years old.

"How do I get out of this screen?" I scream.

"Just right click! Don't you know how to right click?" yells computer kid, who has now moved on to blowing up planets on a machine in the next room.

I now have a phone that is smarter than I. It is smarter than most people. It has more computing power than Apollo 13. And I want to shoot it.

People are bad enough. Now, even my phone condescends to me!

The phone will tell me the Twins score, but I have to ask politely or the woman who lives inside the phone gets smart and says, "Your anger is unbecoming. The Twins are doing fine without you."

So I bow and scrape and say "please" and find out that the Twins are losing to Cleveland 7-2, which isn't the phone's fault, but sometimes you just feel like killing the messenger.

The more things change, the more I wish they'd just stay the same.

I now own a car which has no keyhole in the trunk. You can hold the key in your hand, but there is no way of inserting the key anywhere into the car to get the trunk to open.

Yes, there is a button on the key which opens the trunk, but that button only works if the battery in the key is charged.

Since when do we need batteries in car keys? Who did this to us?

So, let's say the key battery is dead. I want to get in the trunk. After much thought, I have figured out I have one option: punch my code in the door keypad, get in the door and push the button that opens the trunk.

But for that to work, the car battery must also be charged.

We are now at the mercy of batteries. If your batteries have died, the world will stop.

What happens if nothing is charged? Is there any manual way to get in the vehicle?

There is not.

A couple years ago, I stood for two hours outside a van that locked itself shut and wouldn't let me in while it was running. I didn't know the combination for the keypad. Neither did anybody else. We ended up busting out a window.

A kid would have had the van's combination memorized, just as the same kid has his or her thirty-four character passwords memorized for every website on earth.

And those kids, knowing full well that other kids are equally smart and can hack their way into anything, change their passwords every three weeks and manage to remember their new passwords.

This is how the world is going to end: The kids are going to remember their passwords. The old people are going to forget their passwords. The kids take over without a shot fired.

Right now, I am okay with my car. I know that to get in, I punch a five digit number into the keypad.

The first two digits are one of the years the Twins won a World Series. The last three are the number of a highway that runs east of Waubun, Minn.

If you can figure that out, welcome to my car. Enjoy the cold coffee.

But I am waiting for my car to insist that, for security reasons, I am going to have to change my password.

At that point, I will be unable to get into my car unless I have written my new security code down in my wallet. However, I probably will have left my wallet in my car, so that would do no good.

To get my car open, I will call some central agency which will require me to know some other number that I have forgotten.

The last time I checked, I do remember my mother's maiden name. Can't you just ask me that?

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Eric Bergeson

Eric Bergeson is the third generation owner of Bergeson Nursery in Fertile, Minn., a business started by his grandfather in 1937. He also writes a weekly column for several newspapers in northwestern Minnesota. He has published four books, including most recently Pirates on the Prairie, which the Minneapolis Tribune called "a Minnesota cultural and historical treasure." You can read more from Eric at his website, The Country Scribe

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