Friday, July 25, 2008

Retiring An Old Computer

Japanese people as a rule love the newest thing. A new piece of technology comes on the market and they line up in front of the electronics store before the doors open, eager to get in and buy one for themselves a.s.a.p.

Okay, I'm exaggerating a little, but it IS true that many Japanese people are in love with the newest, shiniest, most sophisticated and technologically advanced hard- and software. Just look at my son. He no sooner masters the Mac he buys and he wants another version within a year. He has plans to buy an iphone any minute now. It doesn't matter to him if it costs an arm and a leg--if he has the funds on hand, he justifies using them to get the latest thing.

I, on the other hand, am the type of person who wants to use something till it has completely given up the ghost. The first computer I ever had was one that my husband had used for a time, and decided to replace with a newer model. It was programmed with Windows 3.1, the very first version, or close to it, anyway. This model had the hard disk and memory built in below the monitor's screen, so no separate tower to set up nearby. All you did was push a little round button to start and turn it off again.

Because it was an early model, it was very simple to use. There weren't so many options as we have now; it was perfect for my analog-style brain that was dragged kicking and screaming into the cyber world. A friend showed me the basics of computer use on the PC in her office, and with great effort and support by other computer-saavy friends, I slowly mastered using my Compaq Presario CDS 524. I got it in 1996 when it was three years old. I used it till 2006. (Admittedly, we programmed in Windows 95 in the late 90's.)

My middle older brother told me it was a grampa by computer standards, and it was living on borrowed time. It often froze in mid-use, ironically before I had been able to save a long, laboriously created file. Even so, I was loathe to retire it. As long as it still turned on when that little button was pushed, I felt I ought to use it.

And there was so much data stored in it! In fact, the last year or so, I had great problems trying to clear out enough space for the memory to even temporarily save something. There were virtually no kilobytes left to spare in the end. So recognizing it must be replaced, probably sooner than later, I began to save all the important data on floppy disks, never dreaming that FDs were headed for the computer graveyard within months, as well.

A friend with access to a lot of retired computers at her job rescued an IBM tower and monitor and gave them to me, stripped first of all the stuff they'd used in the company. My husband also offered another tower he had gotten from our nephew and used for a while before he went out and actually bought another model himself. I used these both for a while, but eventually asked a friend to help reprogram them, more for my own specific needs, which he did, bless his heart! I have the nephew's Compaq Presario connected to the IBM monitor and the other IBM tower in storage, in case I am suddenly hit by a virus that wipes out my hard disk, or something.

Meanwhile, my son will only use a Mac; he believes with all the passionate furvor of the cocky young that Macs are the superior choice and Windows is a stupid, antiquated system for people who don't know any better. Whenever we talk on Skype and something goes wrong with the mike or headphones, it is automatically my computer's fault, because after all, I am the jerk who hasn't joined the 21st century and gone out and bought a Mac. (As if I had money to do that...geesh!) The sad fact of the matter is, I don't want to throw away anything that still has life left in it. It feels morally wrong to me, somehow.

Yes, my first computer is still set up in my bedroom, although I rarely have cause to turn it on now. In fact, I think I am ready to retire it, and remove it from sight (to the computer parts' graveyard my hubby has down in our shop)...but I haven't yet. There is this nagging doubt--what if there is something on there I still need? It has ten years of my life trapped inside its memory. I don't want to destroy that.

Retiring an old computer is really hard for me!!

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