Would any of you who have never experienced difficulty with a computer or any kind of digital technology please raise your hand? That’s what I suspected, not many hands in the air out there. Maybe that’s the biggest problem with implementation of the new federal health care law. They placed computer systems being designed by geeky experts in charge of signing up regular people. And many regular people don’t know computers much beyond the “on” button and the “send” symbol. I haven’t looked up the actual figures, but I feel safe in assuming that millions if not billions of dollars have been spent on computer systems and software to manage this signup. Now, I do support in general the federal health care program. Progress has to be made somewhere on a medical system that is out of whack with frightening costs for middle class and poor families. When a routine procedure (that vanishes into the computerized records and accounting system) can cost the price of a high-mileage used car, it’s wrong. Affordable health care should not be available to the wealthy alone. But if Uncle Sam had spent more on taking people off unemployment rolls and putting them at tables in Courthouses and City Halls with old-fashioned pencils and paper forms ready to assist those wanting to sign up, this whole process would be smoother for many participants. No solution is perfect. Paper and pencil move so much slower than computers. Somebody’s going to ask a question a sign-up staffer can’t answer. The scanner reading some of the paperwork into the computer might require a staff member to call somebody back and re-enter information. But these days, any time you get a real person talking to you and providing help instead of a recorded voice on a computer, it feels like the sun breaks out from behind the clouds. Ah, but I know that my idea is akin to suggesting that the Platte County Sheriff’s Department be mounted on horseback from now on and have their squad cars and four-wheel-drive vehicles placed on standby. “In computers we trust” could be the motto on the dollar bill. That’s despite the fact that every time Microsoft rolls out a new version of Windows and it gets installed on a work computer or repaired home computer, many users struggle to figure out how to do basic chores they once did with ease. Many of us get the feeling that nothing we normally do on computers has been advanced by new software, but rather steps have been built in that make it impossible to check our bank balance or send an e-mail to our mom unless we keep buying new software and computers at the pace they dictate. We are now prisoners of the digital age, not the managers. I could not write you this column and send it to Citizen Editor Lee Stubbs and see it appear printed in ink on paper without computers. The social pressures are mounting such that anyone without a cell phone (mini-computer) strapped on is akin to walking around in public buck naked. Trust creates the dividing line between those reluctantly dragged along by cyber society and those who can’t wait for the next new gadget to appear. Currently, my normally reliable printer has some odd bug going that keeps it from doing things I rather desperately need it to do, like print and scan. Family and friends are continually talking about similar problems in general conversations. The folks at the repair shop are friendly, but their computer talk and solutions assume we know all they know as they willingly work on computers daily. So their answers sound like a foreign language. Usually the answer we do understand is “buy a new one.” Something that is not always affordable, but is always aggravating. Society trusts in computers and software just like people before World War II used to soak in the mineral water at Excelsior Springs to cure things like cancer and gout. Results are often similar. Changes in health care systems are going to occur in the decades ahead because the system is currently unhealthy for family finances and the national economy. Computers are here to stay. Unfortunately, computer and software glitches will remain to plague us like the common cold, with no cure in sight.