Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Passing of a Legacy

It was a struggle to let go of my old computer.  When I say old I mean it was really old: a Mac OS9 that I bought in 2000.  At the time it was state of the art technology.  Today it's referred to as a "classic".  It might even qualify as a vintage  item that can be sold in an antique shop.

But it was my first computer and the one I learned on.  For a long time I resisted the pressure to upgrade: the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know, that kind of thing.  When my future husband saw it he declared that it wasn't a real computer at all.  He himself had learned on a PC and he insisted there was no comparison between them.  But that was mostly because he didn't know how to work with a Mac and didn't want to admit his feelings of  cluelessness when he tried to use mine .

When we married my old computer went with me.  I was not completely computer-literate and I still am not, but it was familiar and I could handle basic functions and it was like an old friend to me.   I  could write letters, compose articles, send e-mail, and browse the internet, although for a long time I didn't do that often.  I was still in cyber la la land.  My husband was a good sport and gamely began to learn the ropes.  He soon became more proficient than I. 

Soon, though, as I became more and more interested in the internet for news and opinion, the shortcomings of my old Mac became more apparent.  For instance, I couldn't access YouTube videos.  The machine just couldn't handle it.   When I went to sites like The Chicago Tribune or the Huffington Post I would get messages that my java script was running too slowly.  I would select "abort" and then wait for several minutes as the machine valiantly struggled with the complexity of the operation.  After what seemed like an eternity the first page would appear, groaning.  If I tried to go to another page I would get the same java script message and the same wait for it to appear.  Often my computer would just quit trying and I would be suddenly looking at my desktop.   Frequently I'd get the message that memory was getting short and I would have to quit what I was trying to do and restart.

My browsers were all old, as well.  Internet Explorer 5 and two early versions of iCab were the best I could do.  I just couldn't download newer ones like Firefox or Safari.  As a result when I started posting on Blogspot there were many functions I couldn't perform.  For example, I couldn't add a gadget or choose any but the default font for my script.  I had to go to somebody else's computer that had a newer browser when I wanted to make changes in layout or etc.

My infidelity began at first with fantasy.  As I started to understand that others didn't have the same computer limitations I had, I began to peek at sites like Apple and MacMall  (yes, I still wanted a Mac) and see what tantalizing goods they had to offer.  I was dazzled by the feats their merchandise purportedly could perform.  Secretly I began saving (Macs aren't cheap, and my husband said if I got another one I'd have to pick up the tab myself).

But I still clung to my old faithful (well, sometimes ) dinosaur.  Even after my eagerly anticipated shipment arrived from MacMall I left it in the box for a couple of days, unwilling to just pull the plug and say a final good-bye.  

Knowing from past experience that (despite what the salesmen say) Macs do not come with a user's manual, I had had the forethought to order a couple from Amazon.  But there they were, sitting unopened on the dining room table.

Finally I couldn't resist any longer.  I decided to at least take the thing out of the box.  Even if I didn't actually put it in my old computer's spot on the desk I would see what was inside.

I was impressed by the the iMac's sleek design and relatively light weight.  I had to admit it looked good .  I proceeded to tentatively examine the other contents.  Much to my surprise, there didn't seem to be a keyboard in there.  I left a telephone message with my sales representative saying my shipment was not satisfactory.  Going through the pieces of styrofoam again, my eye alighted on a small flat rectangle about 12" x 5" I had not seen earlier.  I turned it over and saw tiny little keys.  This couldn't be the keyboard...could it?  I asked the sales representative and he assured me that was the standard one for this model.  I was still skeptical.   How could my fingers adapt to such a miniature board?  

The next day I actually set it up.  Took off the plastic, attached the cord, and, after a couple of calls to my cable provider hooked it up to the internet.  It was not only beautiful, it seemed to promise unlimited possibilities.  From there on it has been true love.

I haven't sold my old Mac or taken it to the dump.  Not yet anyway.  There was a moment when I  thought I might have to keep it around forever.  The documents I had copied from my old computer onto a flash drive would not open on the new one.  After speaking with friends and a consultation with the manuals my husband and I discovered that Word could translate the binary code from the old to the new quite easily.  Since then my old friend has been consigned to the closet indefinitely.

I am still in the madly infatuated phase of my relationship.  There doesn't seem to be any limit to our possibilities.  Every day brings new discoveries.  Each time I pass my desk, there it is, shining and beckoning.

It's like coming out of the stone age.

Still, I will never forget my first love.   We both grew older together.