I think I need to call Dr. Phil. We have a compatibility problem and, based on what folks who have actually watched the inimitable television psychologist on the Oprah Show have told me, he's quite adept at solving such dilemmas.

We just don't mesh anymore. We have different needs now that we've aged a bit and things that used to work smoothly don't seem to work at all.

Perhaps we've taken different directions in our relationship. For instance, I started with a Macintosh and now I have a Dell. The software that hummed pleasantly in the Mac will grind and thump and shriek in the Dell.

And taking a Dell disk to the Mac is just not done.

Then there's the printer. Several weeks back it started eating paper. Disgusting. It would take huge mouthfuls of perfectly clean paper and gobble it up without emitting even a shred of printed material.

In fact, it would gorge itself so on a complete ream of expensive laser jet stationery that it would cram up its innards and quit running altogether.

Only thing I knew to do was grab a handful of paper it left hanging out its mouth and try to yank it back out. Evidently, that was not a good idea. Next time I attempted to print something, with only one sheet of paper in the hopper to guard against printer gluttony, it refused to accept any command at all from the computer.

They simply quit communicating with each other.

Being a strong advocate of tough love, I removed the recalcitrant printer, pirated one, of another manufacture, from another Macintosh, one of those cute little I-Macs with the colorful shells, and attached it to the Dell.

Wouldn't work.

I installed new software. Refused to communicate. I threatened violence with a claw hammer. To no avail.

I called the Help Desk. New printer is on the way. Hopefully, the new one will be an obsequious little machine that will kowtow to the every demand from the computer, be it Dell or Mac, and will come with no disgusting habits such as pilfering paper and refusing to print.

Then there is the sudden onset of unacceptable noises issuing from the Dell. Occasionally, when I boot it up (an apt description of what I'd really like to do to it) it sort of hiccups a time or two and then emits a high, piercing screech that reminds me of the owl caught in a blender. (Don't ask.) It probably has caused hearing loss. And I'm certain our cat, which often naps on the top of the computer, will need therapy. Does Dr. Phil see felines?

They tell me I need a new hard drive, but to get a new hard drive I'll need to copy everything on this computer onto a few disks (maybe 100 will hold it) and then copy it back to the new hard drive once it's installed. I so look forward to that.

Don't even mention software or downloadable programs from the Internet. But, since you brought it up, those frequent notices about my need to update a program to the latest “Version 57.901” could drive a sane man crazy, to say nothing of a journalist.

It always seems like a good idea to get the latest in technology until I hit the “please download now” button and the message scrolls across the screen: “Download in progress, estimated time 26 days, 13 hours and 32 minutes.”

Ctrl., alt., del. usually stops the download in its tracks, fortunately.

Sometimes, too, I get email with attachments I can't open because “this type is not supported.” Gee, everyone need some support from time to time. How callous. How incompatible.

So Dr. Phil, I just want you to know. “This is not working for me too well.”

rsmith@primediabusiness.com