Saturday, May 17, 2008

Technology Bytes

My dear little laptop, which has kept me company for over four years, is, sadly, about to crash.

I picked up the little critter at Costco, where it attracted my attention simply because it was white. The manufacturer, Averatec, has rarely been heard of, but the machine has done all that I required for low these many years. My geek friends who have examined him are amazed at all the bells and whistles which came installed, but I never used most of them.

In fact, the laptop played second fiddle for the first two years I owned the thing, as I struggled with the lousy desktop model I purchased online. When that monster finally expired (without warning, so I lost everything on it), my Whitey became my only online source, and it met the challenge with ease. I carried the little thing (only about four pounds) with me to Shenandoah for two gigs, and on many trips to visit the siblings and the pater. I also brought it with me on my most recent visit to L.A. , where my buddy Scott declared he hated the thing.

Well, he had his reasons. Truth be told, the laptop has long been past its prime. It started to show its age about two years ago, when I was out at Wayside Theatre on a gig. The internal CD burner had, I suppose, burned out, so I was unable to create a CD. Luckily, one of our actors was a true Geek (thanks, Will!), and he downloaded a program to replace it.

Soon after, the computer's internal speakers got cranky, and would only work if the top of the machine was about three quarters closed. I have no explanation for this phenomenon, except that the poor creature was aging, but still trying to give me his all. (It was this quirk which prompted Scott to declare, "I hate this computer.") While I was in L.A., Scott noticed another quirk: for some spooky reason, the "n" on the keyboard had rubbed out. No other letter, just the "n". Certainly it was a result of the natural oils from my fingers, but why only that key?

Despite Scott's suspicions, I can state here and now that I did NOT visit Naughty Nuns Needing Nookie. Net with any regularity...

Well, last night, the screen on the old dude started to flicker, and this morning, I could only get the screen lit if the lid was closed 3/4ths, just like the speakers. The message is clear: this laptop is dying. But instead of simply ceasing all activity, this little Averatec athlete is still trying to do his duty.

I spent the day downloading files and programs onto CDs, in hopes of transferring them to a new computer before the old one finally expires.

I dislike technology, and have always been a decade behind. I refused to invest in a CD player back in the day, sure that the fad of digital music would pass. When I finally succumbed (forced into the new age of music when artists stopped making vinyl recordings all together), I promised myself two things: I would only purchase two CDs a month, and I would NEVER purchase a CD version of an album I already had.

I broke both those promises in the first month. Aren't you dying to know which CDs were the first of my collection (a collection which now houses over 600 items)? That first month, I had to have Dave Grusin's Greatest Hits, Andrea Marcovicci's What is Love?, and the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I seem to have drifted off-point here.

My technological stuntedness was nowhere more apparent than in 1993, when I entered graduate school. More than 15 years had passed between my college graduation and my grad school entrance, and in that time. computers had come out of the sci-fi world, and infiltrated our lives. Or at least, the lives of students. When I arrived at USC, I had no idea that my lack of computer knowledge would become such an issue. Hey, I had my portable electric typewriter with me, so I was good to go.

My dandy Smith-Corona was sadly inefficient in Theatre History class, when I spent more time typing my first term paper than writing it (The Ineffectuality of the Landed Gentry of Pre-Revolutionary Russia, as illustrated in Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard...riveting stuff, I must brag). Luckily, I was saved by a fellow student, who took the time to instruct me on how to use a computer (well, on how to use the word processing functions, anyway), so my subsequent paper (Lead Into Gold: the Uses of Alchemy in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Greene's Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay) would not require the constant use of white-out.

I appealed to dear ol' Dad, and purchased a second-hand IBM. By the time I presented my third term paper in as many months ("When? Where? What?" The Unities of Time, Place, and Action as discussed in John Dryden's "An Essay of Dramatic Poesy" and applied to John Guare's Four Baboons Adoring the Sun), I was pretty good on Wordperfect, the standard program used at the time.

Since those grad school days, I have had more than a handful of computers, both desktops and laps, but none have functioned with the dexterity of my poor, ancient Averatec. I have never been one to assign human characteristics to inanimate objects (I would be the LAST person to name my car, for example), but still... it seems my little laptop, with the tilted screen, the eccentric sound, the missing "n" and the transplanted internal drive, just wants to age with dignity.
But not so fast. I have to yank out all its innards before its final crash and burn.

Then, of course, I have to figure out how to load all the files onto a new computer.

No wonder I never bought a microwave....