Goodbye, old friend

By Debra LoGuercio

©Copyright 2003, Debra LoGuercio, all rights reserved

It was difficult to face, but my dear friend's life had reached its natural end. It was a full and productive life, mind you, but to everything there is a season and it was time to turn, turn, turn.

When the time came, there was scarcely any sign of life left. No use fighting it -- the end was imminent. Rather than wait for the inevitable cessation of all function, I took a moment to remember all we'd been through, uttered a tender goodbye, and did what had to be done: I pulled the plug.

It was amazingly peaceful. Not even a last gasp. It was all over in a second. My computer was dead.

Moment of silence, please.

OK, that's enough sentimentalism. Truth be told, I won't miss my dearly departed Dell one bit. I was one hard crash from smashing it to bits with a sledgehammer. Forget "hit any key to continue." How 'bout we hit 'em all.

It'd been so long since my computer functioned correctly, I forgot that a monitor screen was any other color than blue. Not just any blue, mind you. That bold, bright Blue-Screen-of-Death blue, the one that cryptically declares "fatal exception error" and spits out strings of numbers that no one who doesn't wear a pocket protector every day would understand.

If you're not a computer person, I'll explain the Blue Screen of Death. Basically, it means you're finished. It's the computer equivalent of finding your goldfish swimming sideways at the top of the fish tank. However, unlike a dead fish, a computer can be rebooted, and you can start over again until you attempt some complicated function like hitting the "send" button in your email. Then it's Code Blue all over again.

To be honest, it wasn't all the computer's fault that its microchips were scrambled. Not only has software evolved beyond its capacity since I bought it years ago, the old Dell had endured four years of abuse at the hands of The Boy. He'd uploaded and downloaded every program and video game known to man, and cluttered it with Pokemon photos, wrestling videos and every MP3 song ever recorded.

Not only had The Boy filled my computer with his gunk, he'd done the same courtesy for his friends. Imagine my surprise when I decided to delete things in an effort to clear out enough hard drive space to write a letter, and found files labeled "Mike," "Aaron" and "Shawn," all of whom had collected and stored volumes of gunk of their own. It was bad enough finding The Boy's minions sprawled across the living room floor every Saturday morning, sound asleep amid a spray of Pepsi cans and candy wrappers. Now they were sprawled across my hard drive too.

I darn near sprained my deleting finger.

One would think that would've solved the problem, but no. The Boy had criss-crossed everything in the hard drive so many times that when I triumphantly went to use my newly cleaned up computer, the Blue Screen of Death flashed me some new and improved bad news that involved "clusters" and "lost chains." Further investigation with the Disc Doctor revealed 47 quarantined viruses, missing DLL whozitss and corrupted startup whatzits. (Don't fret, I don't know what any of that means either.)

I managed to get the old rattletrap up and running long enough to email Dell for advice. They sent a detailed techno-geek explanation of the various potential problems the computer might have, and what this and that message meant. I wrote back and told them that I have absolutely no interest in understanding why my computer is hosed. I don't want to waste any of my own limited RAM on understanding my computer's limited RAM. I only want to know where to point and click to make it all better.

Their simplified response was "re-install Windows." So far, so cool. When it comes to sticking CDs in and clicking "next," I'm a pro. But then they went on to say that printer drivers would have to be installed, and more RAM might be necessary, and this and that port would have to be tweaked and yadda yadda yadda, my brain immediately started swimming sideways.

I called my favorite computer expert for advice and he told me that my computer had seen the best of its days. Even functioning correctly, it couldn't run current software and programs. It was time for a new computer. He quizzed me on what I needed my computer to do, and emailed me a list of specifications. I got a Dell salesman on the phone, forwarded him that email and said "send me that."

It was just that easy. It was even easy for a technologically challenged person such as myself to hook up - nothing more complicated than "plug the blue plug into the blue hole." And what a system. Like going from a tricycle to a Harley. I can do things I never dreamed of doing on the old computer, like print a document or look at a web page.

Dude! I got a(nother) Dell! And even though we just met, I can tell it's going to be a long and beautiful relationship. I don't miss the old computer one bit. May it rest in pieces.