Friday, August 24, 2012

The Death of a Machine

By Susan

I’ve worked on the same computer, a Dell Precision M90 laptop, since June of 2007.

When it came into my hands (through a job change,) I was thrilled with it. It was large, and sturdy, and had capacity. I liked that idea of capacity—it felt like potential. Energy. Oh! The things I would do with this computer! The work I would produce, the journals I would pen, the novel I would write.

And I did. I wrote miles of words. I created volumes of spreadsheets and P&L’s and wrote innumerable emails. I cleaned it of viruses when she became infected. I once paid a computer tech $100 at a Las Vegas convention when her latches broke and she refused to open. I carried her everywhere… around the country for work, and eventually to Ghana for each of my trips there. 

I defended her Dell-ness against Mac snobs. I kept her close even when her DVD drive mysteriously stopped working. As technology changed, I accepted that my machine was no longer young, no longer fast. I was okay with the fact that I couldn’t Skype on  the Dell without an external mic and camera. I dealt with it when iTunes crashed daily, incapable of meshing with her PC bones.  I kept her close to my heart.

After all—I’d written my first novel on that machine. It housed a decade of photos of my children as they grew. I had a lifetime of music—every CD, download, and song I ever wanted to hear—burned into her systems.

And then, last Monday night, she began to cough and sputter. Not just a cold—I thought. I could tell she was nearing the end. I rebooted. I called a friend for support while she attempted to revive.  I quickly fed her a memory stick, hoping to pull my photos and all my notes from the novel’s creation off her hard drive.  I said a little prayer up to the god of technology, to please spare her life.

By 2am, I was at the end of what I could do for her. I stumbled to bed, bleary-eyed and weary, and waited for morning to come.

I didn’t sleep, knowing it was hopeless. My novel- I kept thinking. My photos. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t the computer I grieved, but the contents. The soul of my machine.  I finally closed my eyes and slept—albeit briefly—prayerful that the soul of my machine was intact.

The next day was easier than I could have hoped. A dear computer friend helped me make sure I’d saved the majority of my files, and has even offered to see if he can salvage the remaining files if I agree to pay him in beer (I can do that.) I breathed a little easier when my husband agreed that I needed to buy what I wanted and what I needed—not to merely settle for a low end model that would disappoint me down the road. I needed a machine I could love as much as the M90. Possibly, one I could love even more.

So I bought a MacBook Pro.

It’s a completely new body for the soul of my work, but I’m pleased to say it only took about a day to feel comfortable with the changes.  Beyond the first night, I didn’t mourn the Dell—because the heart and soul of my work was still with me. The soul of my work carried on.

So whether you write in a notebook, on a computer, or on your arm, keep the spirit of your work close to you. Don’t worry about where you house it—because it’s the writing that counts.

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