Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Adios, Partner

frownLast Thursday, I lost a dear friend, one I've shared a special relationship with for the past four years.

My laptop died.


Writers know what a blow this is. What other object do you touch as much on an intimate basis? Every day, for hours and hours, my fingers danced (and rested and pounded and quivered) on that keyboard. It was the conduit for my writing, the instrument that let me express myself.

I already miss the way it beeped at me when it booted up.

My laptop was always there for me. Whether I was wrestling with a tough stretch of description (my bane), struggling through a poorly written synopsis, or slogging through pages and pages of info on some obscure website, my cherished laptop stood beside me, supporting me, cheering me on. Let's go, Alan, you can do it. I know you can. Keep plugging away!

At least I'm comforted by the thought it got to experience the sheer joy of typing THE END on several occasions.

I used it to write DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD (although it was called HIDDEN FACETS then--for some odd reason, my laptop wasn't very good at titles). I wrote first drafts, second drafts, third drafts, and tenth drafts of other projects. Query letters, synopses, bios, outlines, blog posts, to-do lists, limericks--you name it, I wrote it on my beloved laptop.

And now it's gone.

It was a four-year-old Toshiba, but I suppose that's like pushing eighty in human-years. It had an aged processor working at a slow speed, a small hard drive, and its limited memory just wasn't what it used to be. I guess it's in a better place now.

Thankfully, the end was quick and it didn't suffer. One minute I was surfing the Internet, and the next minute the display pixilated, then froze. I shut down and tried to restart it. Nothing. I thought maybe things had overheated, so I waited a while for everything to cool, then tried again. Still nothing. Holding back tears (and holding my tongue--children were present), I kept trying to revive it, but my hopes faded with every passing moment.

Finally, miracle of miracles, it sputtered back to life! My not-so-silent prayers had been answered. Relief surged through me (at the same time I was frantically backing up everything I could onto a portable hard drive). Maybe it had only been a fleeting ailment, like indigestion or some bizarre 24-minute computer virus.

A short while later, just as I had managed to get everything backed up, the display froze again. More attempts at resuscitation followed, but to no avail. Flatline. Had the perfect timing been simply a coincidence, or had it been a last, loving gesture from my dying laptop to me? I'd like to think it was the latter.

No matter how difficult it may be, I know I have to move on. My new laptop, an HP, has a much faster processor, a hard drive four times  as large, and twice as much memory. It has tons of new features (at least new to me): text-to-speech (I'd always imagined my old laptop would speak with a calm, measured voice, like HAL in 2001), voice recognition (I hope it doesn't recognize all the words I use--that could be embarrassing!), and a web cam (maybe I'll broadcast myself writing in my jammies and charge people a few bucks a month to watch*). It also comes with a few cool games to spark my creativity when I get stuck (hello, Chess Titans!). HP Laptop

I'll have some things to get used to. The location of the various ports and buttons, the new operating system,** and, most importantly, the way the keys feel under my fingers. I hope I'll be able to adapt--only time will tell.

Of course, all I really want to know is if my new laptop can write best-selling manuscripts.

Here's to the beginning of a wonderful relationship.



*Does my agent get 15% of that?

**Does anyone know how to disable all those event confirmation requests in Vista?


Anonymous said...

I share your pain. My trusty companion is getting old. I cannot close it up as the screen is coming apart. So it stays open and subject to the threat of kids playing nearby. Sigh. I hope I can fix Ol' Faithful.

Stephen Tremp

Julia Buckley said...

My condolences, Alan. Could it have been tampered with by North Korea? I hear they're attacking computers these days.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

"It had an aged processor working at a slow speed, a small hard drive, and its limited memory just wasn't what it used to be." Computer? That describes me to a T.

I also feel your pain. My computer went on the fritz several weeks ago. I felt like I was at the dying bedside of a dear friend, juggling anger and despair as I watched it gasp for breath.

I took it into my office where our IT wiz put it on the operating table and did a massive transplant. It looks the same but the guts have all been given a major overhaul. I don't want to buy a new computer until Vista is in its grave.

Alan Orloff said...

Stephen - Good luck with Ol' Faithful (it's always the screen, isn't it?). My universal suggestion: try duct tape.

Julia - Thanks. If by "North Korea" you mean my 11-year-old son, you may be right about the tampering.

Sue Ann - I'm glad major surgery saved your friend. Now that he's received a second chance, keep him healthy!

Paul Lamb said...

I work on a Macbook (to avoid that loathsome Windows universe), but even so, I had a complete hard drive failure last summer, and I lost two chapters of my work in progress. My warranty covered the new hard drive, but my back ups left a lot of holes that I'm still discovering nearly a year later.

I've started playing around with Google Documents as an offsite storage mechanism. (I'm sure there are other such sites.) So far it seems to be perfectly adequate, not only as a backup storage site but as a place where I am toying with working on some stories from start to finish.

Keith Raffel said...

Alan, does this all make you a PC fetishist?

G.M. Malliet said...

Four years is not old! That's called planned obsolescence. May your new one last at least seven years.

Alan Orloff said...

Paul - I've heard good things about Google Docs, especially for collaborative projects. I'll have to check it out.

Keith - Can't put anything over on you Silicon Valley guys.

GM - Maybe in seven years, we'll all be typing novels on our cell phones.