Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Sunday, September 04, 2022

O Tempora, O Mores

All summer long, people have gotten used to the sound of keys clicking on my vintage laptop, and then a insistent rhythmic tapping as someone tries to get a response from the O key. The prudent typist generally saves him or herself the pain and simply copies and pastes an O whenever it's needed, but sometimes man must prove his mastery over the machine and pound until the proper vowel is produced. 

The laptop held little charge, whether because the battery was old or because it had been dropped so many times that the charging port was dented and so you could only get contact at a certain angle that was hard to maintain with my fraying charger. Still, I could get it to work if I propped it just so. It took a little effort, but that effort was free.

One can live with a laptop without an O. One can live with a brief battery. One can even live with a laptop without sound. One day the computer was, without warning, unalterably stuck on mute. Every internet fix failed us -- there was simply no sound output available anymore. I watched videos with subtitles, like I do anyway. But two of the kids start an online math class soon, and one has community college classes that require videos, and most of that work last year was done on my laptop.

One evening last week, things with the computer had come to such a pass that it was infecting us. I grumbled that if we called tech support they'd just tell us to buy a new computer, and Darwin sighed and started patiently problem-solving at me, and -- this is how you know it was bad -- I actually showed signs of pique. And so Darwin sat for two hours on a work night on the phone with tech support, trying various things to coax the laptop into restoring the sound, though it was becoming clear that the issue probably was that the sound card itself had failed. Maybe we can upgrade the system, tech support said. If that doesn't work, it's the sound card for sure.

We don't know if it was the sound card, in the end, because the laptop never rebooted. A system upgrade on an eight-year-old laptop was a bridge too far. For 48 hours, the screen promised that there were 28 minutes remaining, two hours remaining, a status bar hovering near halfway. Eventually I restarted it, and for 24 more hours it sat unhappily loading. And then, nothing. 

Darwin has two separate work laptops, but my computer is the one that travels places with kids who need laptops, that allows students to take online classes upstairs away from their siblings, that spends quarantine with sick people who want to watch a movie or say hi to friends, that is the main hub for emails and essays and Zoom calls and game time. Sometimes I even get to use it myself. The dead laptop holds various drafts of my novels -- most of which are stored in Google Drive, and which I could certainly retrieve in email, but on my laptop I always knew where they were. 

As of the other day, I have a shiny new laptop, acquired for me by Darwin on his lunch break. It is the future, and technology marches on. I need to acquire new cords, or at least a new dongle, to allow the new computer to speak to the old printer before the school year gets into full swing. I need to find my backups and get my novels back safely on my hard drive. I need to get used to using the O key again, though that's been the easiest part of the transition. 

I also need to think of this as an educational expense, and not just one more damn thing at a time when every damn thing costs money. Could we have limped along without sound or O or battery life? Yes, because we were doing it before. But I am grateful to have a fully functional laptop again. Maybe it will inspire me to write more often. Maybe all this time it's been my O key hampering my creativity, and now we'll see a great flourishing of words. O boy!


Antoinette said...

I also need to think of this as an educational expense, and not just one more damn thing at a time when every damn thing costs money.- I agree about thinking of it as an educational expense. A worker needs good tools to do their best work. A computer is essential for educational work.

mandamum said...

Yes on educational expenses. They get more expensive when it's no longer crayons and "the nice pencils" LOL but it' still an expense that is (mostly) in service of the schooling. (And yes on good tools - I'm still trying to give myself permission for the good tools I need as the mom and headmistress and housekeeper, but I'm getting there).

Yay for more writing from Mrs. Darwin, when you get to use your laptop :-)