I guess it was time. My last computer was bought in 2002. It’s so old and slow and infected with viruses that for the past six months it hasn’t been working. I’ve been keeping it in a corner because something in me simply refuses to throw away so much circuitry and plastic, but the truth is that the machine is so messed up it can’t even load the operating system in safe mode.

I had been using my work laptop plugged into my monitor and my Internet cable in the Hague, and then when I moved to New York I just hid it in a corner and kept using my work laptop. But there are certain limitations of using your work laptop for all your personal business, so I knew the situation wasn’t sustainable, but it took a catalyst for me to get a new machine: here’s how it happened.

Brian wakes up one Saturday. This Saturday is unusual in that Brian is actually in his bed in New York and not in some hotel room in Germany or in Lynn’s beautiful apartment in Godalming. Brian is immediately depressed. Brian motivates to perform daily hygenic tasks and tries to continue motivation by making a list of things to do:

  • join Facebook
  • buy toilet paper*
  • buy pillow cases*
  • buy a computer monitor
  • get a haircut
  • transfer money from Netherlands to pay bills*

*= not actually accomplished

So after eating chocolate chip pancakes and sausages alone in the diner down the block, I make my way to the Circuit City. I think long and hard about buying a PS3 (because then I can start watching BluRay movies AND occupy my time with games, all in one device!), but decide against it as I am in debt (because I haven’t done my travel expenses in four months). So I walk up and down the two aisles with monitors, and finally decide on a nice widescreen monitor. Give plastic. Get box. Walk back to apartment in rain. Unpack box. Hook up monitor.

My old work laptop doesn’t support my new monitor.

Now, some might think that this is the kind of thing that one should have checked before one invested $250 in a new monitor that is now staring dumbly at me from my hastily cleared-up desk. I look at him. He looks blankly back at me. “You dumbass,” he says. Actually, I say it for him.

In a desperate attempt to fend off the inevitable, I call the HP support line to see if there is some driver or something that I can install that will magically make my old hardware support my new monitor. I speak to a kindly Indian gentleman who determines in two seconds that my graphics card just doesn’t support the screen size of my new monitor. No magic software. No silver bullet.

And then he hits me with, “Can I interest you in buying a tower?”

Why yes my good man, you certainly can.

We make a deal. He throws some numbers at me. It’s been so long since I’ve been into hardware that they are essentially meaningless. Computing is a utility, I just want to pay my bill and get mine turned back on. I rush him through the details and then remember my previous mistake so I quickly ask: “This new machine will support my monitor right?” He tries not to chuckle. He passes me off to a nice Indian woman who handles the actual sales process. I throw some numbers at them, they approve me in the system, and tell me that, magically, in one week, a new computer will arrive at my apartment.

It’s a beautiful world. Everyone gets what they want.

True enough, I came back from a trip and there was a big cardboard box that I manhandled up three flights of steps (while lugging my suitcase in the other hand because I refuse to make two trips). I repeat the manic process of unpacking and hooking up. The machine starts… and then displays a colored background and nothing else happens. I finally look at the instructions. “It may take up to 20 minutes for your operating system to load the first time.”

Fine. I watch TV. An hour later I look at the screen and it is still stuck. WTF.

I pull the plug, then restart. My machine thanks me for this by going into an endless feedback loop saying “Windows did not install completely, restarting.” Then it restarts itself only to come to the same conclusion… endlessly.

I curse profusely.

I call tech support again. This time I get a woman with a lovely Scottish brogue, as she walks me through the Latin incantations and complex dance steps I need to exorcise the demons from my machine, I find out she’s from Glasgow. She reminds me of my girlfriend. My heart is content. Finally, the black magic ritual is complete and the bastard machine boots up correctly.

Welcome to Windows Vista.

What the hell am I looking at? What the hell have they done with the desktop? Who moved all my stuff.

I realize I am old. I do not like change anymore. I want things to stay the same forever and for everyone to color inside the lines.

No, I don’t really, but after so many frustrations I just don’t have time to learn a new operating system. I think back to the days when I would have spent hours going through all the “What’s new?” tutorials and watching all the marketing videos. In those days I would have had all the time in the world an no bills to pay and no expense reports that are four months overdue.

But life moves on and now I write blog posts instead of toodling around with my new toy.

If there’s one thing I like about my new computer, it’s the cool clicking sounds my new keyboard makes as I type on it. That’s probably why this blog post is this long.

Anyway, that’s the story of my new computer.

Categories: BrianNew York


Lynn Brandon · March 22, 2008 at 10:28 pm

Aah yes, I have also just come across Vista for the first time, on my dad’s new laptop when I foolishly said I can solve the problem until I looked at the screen and realised I had no idea where to look for anything…

Tripodi · March 23, 2008 at 2:38 am

Yeah, those Commodore 64s tend to run slow after a while.

This is what you really need.

Brian · March 31, 2008 at 11:43 pm

Wow Jeff, that was actually really cool. I mean, sure, to demean and belittle the fact that I have no metalworking or felt-punching skills I was saying “obviously an individual with too much time on their hands” the whole time. But really, I want one.

That guy is probably making a living now making custom keyboards for Internet millionaires who want to one-up each other in eccentricity. Still, not a bad life. Computer art. I wonder if I can smash up some old Apple IIe’s, glue them on a canvass and call myself the Jackson Pollack of computer art. Or cover the capitol building in used motherboards and be the next Cristo.

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