The Movie Diary

A technical approach

By Dom Cioffi

The grumbling went on for days. Occasionally I would hear hate-speak; other times, pointed questions were blurted out. And then finally one day my wife walked out of her office and tossed her cell phone onto the couch.

“I’ve had it,” she exclaimed, with more than a hint of desperation in her voice. “I can’t use this thing any longer.”
I calmly inquired into what type of problem she was having, fully expecting it to be something minor that I could fix with an upgrade or hard restart.

“No, this time it’s different,” she said. “Weird things keep happening and it’s starting to effect my job.”

I shook my head knowingly, being careful not to appear condescending, which apparently I can be when it comes to digital problems. I then told her to hand it to me and I would fix it.

Within minutes I had diagnosed the problem and taken the necessary steps to rectify it. I then brought it back to her and in the calmest, most loving way, showed her what she was doing to cause the problem.

She then went on to tell me that if it happened again, she was going straight to the cell phone store to get a new iPhone, at which point I cringed, knowing how much Apple’s bottom line appreciates customers like her with little patience.

Throughout my life I’ve been the go-to digital person in my family circle. When I was a youngster, I troubleshot the VCR and home stereo and any other household gadget that needed tinkering. I wasn’t an electronics wiz by any means, but I was savvy enough to figure out most minor issues.

My position of tech specialist continued through college and into adulthood. Whenever my wife and I purchase anything even remotely digital (think coffee maker), I always know it’s my job to not only get it up and running, but to also keep it running when it starts to act up.

Over the years, I honestly think I have saved us thousands of dollars from simply lifting up the hood and looking around instead of tossing it away.

When the internet entered our world, my helpdesk sessions skyrocketed since I was not only looking after my own array of computers, but also those of my grandmother and mother and any of their needy friends. And even though I moved out of my house many years ago, my mother still expects me to keep her gadgets up to speed.

In recent years, my mom has become good friends with a neighbor who happens to be quite handy with electronics. Desperate phone calls concerning dead internet or computer freezes have virtually ended thanks to my mom’s friend. I thank this woman profusely every time I see her knowing that she continually saves me from hopelessly trying to walk my mom through another app installation.

I used to jump up when anyone voiced a concern about their cell phone or laptop misbehaving. It gave me pride knowing that I could save someone from an unnecessary purchase or costly trip to a computer specialist.

I’m not so quick these days. I’ve learned over the years that those quick tips often turn into multiple revisits and nighttime phone calls. I then feel obligated to continuously help people. And God forbid if anything I did happened to coincide with something else going wrong and then it looks like I screwed things up.

No thanks. My days as a free helpdesk are over. Sure, I’ll still help my mom and I still maintain our household items, but I’ve dialed back on everything else. In fact, I’ve even relegated some of the household stuff to my teenage son, who fancies himself a bit of a tech-head. When we purchased an Amazon Echo this past Christmas, I informed my son that it was his job to get it going and to teach his mother and me how to use it (I’m still waiting for that lesson).

This week’s film, “Upgrade,” also involves some high tech gadgetry, but not the kind any normal home would have. In this case, the hardware is deep inside a human body.

Set in the future, “Upgrade” considers how a computer could find its way inside a human body and then take control over that body in order to fully realize its “life.” It’s a bit of stretch, but handled in such a way that the film never feels outside of reality.

Check this one out if you’re in the mood for a tightly written sci-fi story that also injects a bit of murderous bloodletting. This one’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s also not so over-the-top that it violates good storytelling.

A techie “B+” for “Upgrade.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at

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