Archive for the 'Computers and Internet' Category

A Friend MIA

June 2, 2005

Recently, the charger for my laptop started to die on me. It wouldn’t hold a steady current that would allow my laptop to stay powered up – I knew I was going to have to get a new one before this happened because the cord from the charger to the laptop was mildly damaged. I bought a new one off of eBay which was a lot cheaper than getting it repaired through Dell, buying a new one through Dell or buying new through CompUSA or something. I’m happy that it’s up and running again, but the period when it was down was incredibly enlightening for me. It was just over five days without the laptop at home – no big deal, except I don’t have a tv either and I listen to a lot of music on my laptop. If I had had my laptop, I would’ve blogged this experience. Of course, I couldn’t, so now I have to write about it after the fact.

The whole point of this is not to write about what I did (mainly a lot of reading and listening to music on my stereo) but rather how it felt like a part of me was gone. I didn’t do any research into this, but I’m sure others have reported feeling similar if they had a piece of technology fail on them. I’m fairly certain a large portion of our society (western society) has become unofficial cyborgs of their own – not a true fusion of technology and man, but a symbiotic form, needing the other to really survive properly. If someone’s cellphone just dies out of the blue, that person may have lost all of their contact numbers and their only form of communication as people rely more and more on cellphones and less on landlines. It can be a humbling experience trying to remember so-and-so’s phone number, or where you’re supposed to be if you use a calendar of some sort. It must be quite unnerving, but they always have a backup (a friend’s cell, pay phones, etc) or have all the information stored on a computer as well. It’s an inconvenience, but there are ways to work around it.

When my laptop became useless, it was a very humbling experience for me. I use my laptop to watch movies, listen to music, email, chat, browse the web, read news feeds, sometimes play games, etc. When it went down, a significant portion of my lifestyle went with it. Any plans to rent a movie or to type up my resume were  dashed and I was kind of upset. I lost five days of productivity (especially considering that Monday was a holiday). It took a day or two to really adjust to this absence and I started thinking about how tied in we are to technology and how our ancestors would’ve laughed at us for this failure. We put so much trust into our computer technology and yet we’re accustomed to it failing on us as well. Isn’t this a stupid invention on our part? When paper was first invented and used on a mass scale, would they have continued using paper if once a week that piece of paper just burst into flames and destoryed half of the information or more? I think not. And yet we still use these machines to store critical data, for major processes that aren’t necessary or have alternative methods of accomplishing. It seems to me that as technology races forward in advances, the less we’re really able to control it. I’m certain that it would take another few years of work for a team of programmers at Apple to fix their older computer OS’s so they never crashed, ever. Would people go back in time and start using these perfect machines even if they weren’t capable of doing the major work that modern computers can do? I’m sure it would be appealing for the home-user to know they never had to worry about a computer crashing or losing data.

Back to my laptop.

I had been using computers and the internet for the past ten years now. I never knew how truly dependent I was on them until this past weekend with the laptop going down. I knew I had my routine in life (wake up, eat, check email, surf to catch up on news, etc) but I always thought I could survive without it and not be too distraught when it failed. But I become obsessive over fixing it or finding a solution to the problem. Even though it was out of my control, I still kept continually checking and rechecking the charger, contemplated opening it up and seeing if something was just loose, etc. It wasn’t until the Monday when I finally gave up and knew the new charger would arrive soon (used a computer at work to buy one). I went to the mall that day and found myself in a computer store. I seriously thought about just buying a new laptop all together. When I caught myself thinking of this, I thought what a moron I was. Buy a new laptop for $700 when the part I needed cost less than $50. I suppose that’s how society has brainwashed us into thinking that new is definitely better than old. Whoever came up with that was a genius.

After the shopping trip, I was able to come home and relax. I read a book until nearly 2 or 3am and I hadn’t done that in years. A solid six hours of just reading a book and not being able to put it down except for a few short breaks to rest my eyes. I was thrilled, and had started reading the next morning as well. Then my charger arrived in the afternoon and everything collapsed, again.

I’m back to my regular schedule now – which is good and bad. I enjoy being able to contact people whenever I want to or check up on sports scores, but it still bothers me how much I use the laptop in a day on things I don’t need to be doing. I should be using it to write up a cover letter to apply for jobs, but instead I’m writing up something that no one will read.

Go figure.