Day 24/25: Computer Guilt — (mild geek alert)

Coming to you LIVE from the NEW POWERBOOK! It is tiny (12″), it is beautiful, elegant, lightweight (4.6 lbs), and it is screamingly fast (1.5GHz). I can’t believe it is mine and I didn’t have to: a. further increase my already fearsome student debt, b. borrow heavily from family and friends, c. promise my firstborn to Steve Jobs, or d. pay for it at all.

But, I kind of also have mixed feelings about it.

I’ve never had a computer that was just given to me by a job for my own use in that job. Probably because I’ve never had a real job. Since graduating from Ideal Small College, I temped for a year, and then started grad school. And I’ve been at it ever since. Definitely no “company” computers there! So, I’m kind of feeling like I’m not entirely sure that this windfall is “mine.” And I don’t know if it will feel as much mine as my old computers did. But, maybe that is a good thing.

I’ve had 2 Apple portables since I started grad school (this will date me and really let you know the meaning of a decade!): the PowerBook 520, and the iBook 500 dual USB. The Powerbook 520 was the first Apple portable model with a trackpad rather than a little rollerball thingey. It had a black and white screen, a 25 mhz processor, and a 160 MB hard drive. It weighed about a million pounds (7.1) and it lasted for five years before the internet became too big and pages too large to load, and all of the batteries died so that I had to reset the date and time every time I opened it. I still have it in my closet, and I’m sure that there is something of Vital Importance on it that I’m going to need someday, and so I refuse to get rid of it despite Spousal Unit’s pleas. (He didn’t know it was there until quite recently when I mentioned it in conversation the other day to someone else, and he overheard, and took notice that I still had it. Zen-like, he urged me to free myself from the burdens of unused and unusable material objects, but I fought him tooth and nail. And besides, it’s WAY in my closet. He’ll have to do a lot of digging through all the other unused and unusable material objects that I couldn’t name if you asked me to if he wants to find it in order to chuck it.)

By the time I upgraded to the iBook, computers had dramatically changed — the OS had changed, their shape, their size, their capabilities. It was a revolutionary experience to go from the 520 to the iBook (4.9 lbs, 10 gig drive) that I now have. It was great – it was wonderful -but it was also kind of sad. I loved that Powerbook 520 and can remember how cool I felt being one of the only people in 1996 who could do work on their computer at the coffeehouse, how neat it was to not have to use an external mouse, how great it was to have such a small footprint on my desk compared to other desktop computers. It wasn’t its fault that the internet came along and made it too slow. For a long time, I used both the 520 and the iBook together – before I realized that the old one just didn’t have it going on like the new iBook (iTunes alone should have clued me in, let alone AirPort!). When I finally put the 520 away in the aforementioned closet, I was sad – something had changed. It was kind of like putting away a once important stuffed animal in a box and admitting to yourself that it is no longer needed. That you had grown beyond a particular childhood comfort. And now, it might be time to put the iBook in its box in the closet and I don’t think I’m ready.

I blame Apple. If they made piece of shit computers like everyone else, by the time I upgraded I’d hate the blasted thing for breaking down, for losing my data, and for generally being such a piece of crap that I would happily deposit it in the nearest dumpster. (Can we say Planned Obsolescence everybody?) But, Apple makes computers worth falling in love with. Or maybe it isn’t an Apple thing, maybe it is a dissertation thing. It could be so hard to get rid of the old computer because we dissertators spend so more time with our computers than we do with anyone (oops — I meant thing!) else that we really connect to them. Maybe it is because they carry the burdens of our whole intellectual life and are the space where we make our life’s work. But somehow, for me, they become vitally important and beloved, not just a necessary tool for my job.

Anyway, maybe today I’ll get out that dusty old 520 box and finally send the thing on its way. How many Apple laptop computers does a girl need at one time? Yeah. Maybe it would feel good to liberate it from me, and me from it. Maybe I’ll do it.

Or maybe I’ll do it tomorrow.

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7 responses to “Day 24/25: Computer Guilt — (mild geek alert)

  1. HaHa! You got me.

    I am getting new carpet for the whole house on Tuesday. They said they would move the furniture, all I have to do is move the little thingeys on the furniture. In ..the..whole..house. upstairs..downstairs..basement… Oh my, it is mid day Sunday and I have not made a dent this weekend and I still have to mow and the dog is looking at me begging for a long walk. I had no idea how many little things are all over this place.

    One bath tub is filled with books protected in trash sacks, in case the shower turns on by itself. The linen closet shelves are full of books. And my bookcase is full still and I have not started in the den where all the books are.

    Here is the other catch. They will not move computers. I will hide my new Mac PowerBook so no one can even see it, let alone step on it. I can move my hated deader than dead Compac Presario that is behind my favorite chair in the family room. In the garage (where I am also stacking books), there is my old nearly-dead (when I last checked 8 years ago) big computer that has all my writings on it from the early 90’s. Oh yes, there is also writing locked inside the Compac that I plan to pull out somehow. And I have to move computer #4, — my HP big computer that works fine, almost. After two geeks at $90 hour found no way it will ever connect to the internet, I had the ok to buy the Mac. But I keep the HP — it has Shanghai on it!

    I agree with you. The PowerBook is the only one I love. But I am attached to the others. Or is it just a concern about throwing something out when I can no longer remember what is in it? If you were to throw out a box, wouldn’t you open it first? If it were a dresser, wouldn’t you first open each drawer?

    Keep them all! I am with you. And enjoy YOUR new laptop.

  2. New Kid on the Hallway

    Ooh, ooh, ooh, the PB 520! I had one of those! I loved it! And when its hard drive died, I sold it to a friend’s fiance, who was happy to fix it, and so it had a long and noble life.

    Now I have a (mumble, mumble DELL) computer, because my campus won’t support Macs. SO jealous of your new laptop!

  3. My first computer was an Apple 2e–green screen and all. I was on Apple for all of my formative years, but right before college and grad school, I switched to PC with little to no guilt. Since I’m leaving my current institution, I’ve been thinking about a Powerbook for the disseration. I need something new–its time–so why not right before I begin. Any other dissertation machine suggestions??

  4. I understand your reluctance to dispose of your old friend, after all I have a Gateway 486, and an IBM Pentium 1 in the garage – just moved you know. I’m hesitant to put them in the trash! By the way, your wrongly addressed card arrived. Keep hanging in. I’ll try to do the same, since I have known you for many years, at least someone very much like you!

  5. Our first computer was an Apple II+ when I was a kid and it had a 512 k memory. I loved it. I played this great adventure game all of the time on it called the Dungeon of Htam. It was so cool. You’d go from “room” to “room” picking up stuff and unlocking things (all text based, of course) and then every now and then you’d encounter a monster that would growl at you and threaten you with sudden death if you did not answer his randomly generated question: “What is 48372/678?” It took me 6 months to figure out that Htam = MATH. I felt totally duped by my parents who were clearly trying to get me to do math, which I hated, and even more stupid that it actually worked because I loved the game.

    Any other first/old computer memories? (We could even intellectualize it as a history of technology project…)

  6. Oh yeah, and New Kid — I’m so so sorry to hear that you have to use a PC! I’m still a little bitter that Mac tanked so badly in the 90s and lost a lot of the educational market. I swear, if Mac ever goes belly-up and stops making computers, I will revert to quill, inkwell and parchment!

  7. Yes, I, too, was forced over to the Dark Side by an Evil Ivy League Educational Institution that refused to support Macs any longer. Tragedy. So instead of giving my money directly to the Republican Party, I pay it to Steve Dell instead. (not my choice, obviously!) Yeah, it’s no Mac, but I have to say if you’re going to dwell on the Dark Side, it’s not too bad. A very nice Indian man helped me with some incomprehesible problem on my 4 year old machine a few months back. I bought the lifetime tech support package which should have been called the “I used to work with Macs and have no idea what the hell this stupid computer is doing” package.

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