Out with the old, in with the new

A week or two back I wrote about my ailing laptop and my fading hopes for its recovery. Yesterday, I picked it up from the computer repair shop and brought it home to die.

The initial prognosis when I first had the aging IBM ThinkPad admitted hadn’t been good. Early optimism that it was just a screen problem quickly turned bleak when the frightening word “motherboard” started being mentioned. Heroic efforts — spending more on parts and labor than it was worth — might save T.Pad, but the work would be painful and the machine’s quality of life could be severely reduced.

Still, I held onto hope. I hoped that if I just left it in the shop, I wouldn’t have to pay for any diagnostic charges. Finally, compassion got the better of me and I called to ask if I could come and pick it up.

“We’re open nine to six,” said the receptionist sadly. “Except on Wednesdays when we close at two.”

When I arrived at the sprawling Metrolina Computer complex in a strip-mall storefront out on the bypass, I gave my name and my patient’s name to a young orderly. He started randomly looking at some shelves filled with ailing desktops and soon came across my startlingly thin machine. Initially shocked at the apparent emaciation, I soon remembered that’s how it looked when I brought it in, that thinness was the whole point of having a laptop.

I tried to get him to confirm the diagnosis I’d received on the phone, putting a hopeful spin on the question.

“They said it might be big problems but weren’t sure,” I said. “Maybe they were able to find something later.”

He scanned a piece of paper that had been lying with T.Pad for any notes detailing the condition. When he couldn’t find anything, he consulted with the nurse/receptionist who called up my order on her screen.  It almost broke my heart to see how snappy her computer response time was compared to the poor health of the machine that now lay with its power chord draped mournfully across its surface.

Finally a man in a lab coat stepped forward. He spoke with a comforting tone about how they had done some minor fix-ups in the beginning and “we had it on the stand running fine for a day or two. Everybody thought ‘great, it’s fixed,’ but then the previous problems returned and it hasn’t worked since.” I choked up at the thought it had briefly brightened the day (or two) of these hardened technicians.

I gathered up my patient, offered a heartfelt “thanks for trying” and headed quickly for the exit. The shop displayed a sign saying diagnostics were free and I wanted to make sure that was the case by getting out of there as soon as possible. They either didn’t have the heart to stop me, or else Obama’s newly installed socialized state was already working on my behalf.

When I got T.Pad home, I set him on the kitchen counter and tried to boot up just like old times. I opened the lid to find a loose screw sitting next to the keyboard, the most appalling display of sloppy repair I’d seen since my doctor left a lens cap inside during my last colonoscopy. I shuddered; somebody again had the air conditioning set too high.

I pushed the power button and the screen sprang briefly to life. I’d hoped to at least share some final memories, by quickly emailing a few key files to myself. However, the cursor soon froze and a blackness overtook the display face that told me the final moments had arrived. Other appliances like the microwave, refrigerator, toaster and coffeemaker had already gathered around in a touching show of support. I retrieved my cellphone and my iPod so “T” would have some younger contemporaries to relate to in this moment of passing. They quietly showed their respects, except for the phone which went off once telling me my reserved book had arrived at the library.

I pressed the off button for the last time. I had to hold it down for several seconds before all the display lights went out and the whirring ceased. It was a brave act of rage against the dying of the light that touched us all, or at least those of us who were sentient. Finally, there was quiet. I pulled the plug on ol’ gramps, knowing I could probably salvage the power chord for use on another machine. I ceremonially sprinkled a little dirt next to the keyboard in preparation for T.Pad’s eternal resting place in the backyard next to four generations of dead cats.

The late great T.Pad is readied for burial

The late great T.Pad is readied for burial

Then I went out and bought a new computer! It’s really awesome and I am so excited!!!

It’s actually not a laptop at all but what they call a netbook. It weighs less than three pounds yet still has 160 somethings that make the memory really big and 16 something-elses that make it as fast as any larger computer. It has a webcam (I’m waving at you right now — can you see me?) and a touchpad with multi-finger gesture input so I can make two mistakes at once. The keyboard is only 90% of normal size, requiring me to keep my fingernails neatly trimmed unless I want a bunch of random numbers sprinkled in with my blog post.

The brand name is one I’ve never heard of. It’s either called ASUS, which you know has to be American-made because it has “USA” mixed in there, or else it’s called Eee, if you find ASUS too difficult to pronounce. It does have the feel of a cheap plastic toy, especially the makeshift security feature that permanently records the fingerprints of anyone who touches its shiny black surface. The performance and reliability so far, however, are excellent. It’s working three days after purchase!

I’m still making my way through the instruction manual. I am forewarned about putting benzene on it, not operating it during a gas leak, not placing it on an unstable surface (that means you, Uncle Jeff), not leaving it on my lap for long periods, and not shoving any foreign objects into it. I also shouldn’t operate it if the temperature outside is below 41 degrees, so I better dive in and start computing before that forecasted cool wave hits later this week.

Much of the operation is intuitive — for example, you strike the “a” key when you want to spell something that has an “a” in it. There are also some helpful blue icons on a few of the keys, in case you want to block out the sun, forbid bullhorns or NumLK somebody. There are some tiny colored lights and a number of holes on either side of the machine, which I guess explains the shoving caveat.

It’ll never replace the special spot in my heart I’ll always have for my very first laptop. But I think it’ll be quite sufficient for me to go online to WebMD so I can finally look up “motherboard,” and also learn how to get that lens cap out of my ileum.


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6 Responses to “Out with the old, in with the new”

  1. tom1950 Says:

    I love it. A truly great post. I, too, am very reluctant to let go of prized possessions: a tube-type audio amp, a complete tube-type amateur radio console, and MY first laptop, which is enshrined (without a lid/screen) at the top of my bookshelf and running an old dot-matrix printer on the network.


  2. Oscar Says:

    I love my thinkpad’s.

    You did save the drive I hope. You can buy an adapted and use it as an external drive! When my first thinkpad leaped off a table and ran down a flight of stairs, I took the drive out and had all my data.

    Good luck with the new addition!

  3. wrjones Says:

    Damn your hide. I cried so hard I ruined my laptop. Now I have to get a new one too. Still if the new models are as intuitive as you say… imagine hitting the “a” key and spelling “a”. It is wondrous.

  4. tychy Says:

    on my last laptop, the “motherboard” literally exploded – or so i was told, after taking its carcass to PC World for an autopsy. it went out, not with a whimper, but with a huge bang! it’s a lot more fun if your computer perishes violently.

  5. planetross Says:

    Everything passes on eventually. If it’s any consolation, it will live on in your memory … chip in the new computer!

  6. Phillip Donnelly Says:

    A particularly excellent post today!
    Alas, the end has come for the Davis T Pad. My own Think Pad sends his sincere condolencies, but he’s looking worried, finally having to face his own mortality. As a young T-Pad, he thought he could compute forever, but now his whirring is not what it was and his LED’s are dimming. It comes to us all, Phillip T Pad: one day you too shall shuffle off this mortal coil and go to the great Motherboard in the Sky… but not too soon, I hope, because I’ve just got another tax bill (tax bills are France’s only growth industry) and can’t afford to let you retire.
    Coincidentally, I also own a Eee PC, or rather I used to, but it bit the bullet in Sri Lanka; a victim of a Power Surge, I think, or perhaps it was fighting with the Tamels while I slept. I didn’t really mourn it, to be honest. Its operating system was in French and it had a keyboard only an emaciated pigmy could love. It also ran Linux, and I’m not enough of a nerd to appreciate it. There’s only one laptop for me, and that’s a ThinkPad: classic black, sturdy, and immune to fashion; a dark beacon of American technological prowess… except now it’s Chinese, of course. It’s just that I might need a younger model, that’s all. What swine men are: we use ’em and throw ’em away.
    If God if a laptop, we’re going to have a motherboard stuck up our USB slot come ThinkPad day…
    Repent thy Asus… and I’m glad the ‘n’ and ‘s’ key are so far apart!

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