an abundance of platitudes

“I’m thinking of getting a new computer,” I said. The Tall One fixed me with one of his signature gazes, in this case, the Gaze of Mocking Disdain, and asked simply, “Why?”

“Because it’s about time,” I said.

“But didn’t you just get a laptop?”

“Well, if by ‘just’ you mean ‘three years ago’.”

The Gaze of Mocking Disdain intensified. “Ooooh,” said the Tall One, showing me a set of Jazz Hands that dripped with sarcasm, “three years. How do you live?”

The Tall One couldn’t understand why I was so determined to get a new computer. The MacBook Pro I had purchased back in late 2007 was still a great machine, so why spend the money? Why be a mindless consumer of shiny electronics? Why be a slave to planned obsolescence? In his mind, the whole thing was ridiculous.

I’m not the sort of guy who demands cutting edge everything. My furniture are sub-Ikea particle board affairs purchased from a vendor who caters to the stupid and desperate. My bed, purchased over five years ago, was the second-cheapest model in the store. I let our apartment go a solid six months without an inner doorknob. I live in a neighborhood renowned for cheap housing and sidewalks covered in shards of broken beer bottle.

I have no problem living a no-frills life, but not when it comes to my computer. The Tall One, on the other hand, will use a computer until the machine literally falls apart. I can’t count the number of times I rescued his aged Hewlett-Packard desktop from viruses run amok and catastrophic hard drive failures. Toward the end, the internal power supply became unreliable, and the power button only had a 50/50 chance of successfully turning on the machine. The Tall One continued to use the computer in this state for months, eventually evolving a strange ritual that involved unplugging all other appliances from his surge protector, hitting the power button twice, and hoping for the best. He swears this made the computer more likely to turn on.

Heaven forbid this man ever has to make an end-of-life decision for a family member.

My philosophy in regards to my computer is simple. I use the damn thing for work and pleasure, eight or more hours per day, almost every day. If I’m going to be staring at the thing that much, why shouldn’t I be staring at the best? It’s not that my old computer was unsuitable. Quite the contrary, it still ran just fine. But three years of constant use had aged it like a battered linebacker. If that metaphor is a little dark for you, try this one. Think of me as the sun—in other words, as a churning furnace of creative energies—and my old MacBook as Robert Redford’s face. The thing still ran well, don’t get me wrong, but damage had been accruing for a while.

For example, I sometimes type with my nails instead of my fingertips, a habit which had left deep etches in the most frequently used keys. The spacebar developed an honest-to-God hole, the extent of which was clearly delineated by the keyboard’s backlight. “I’ve never seen that before,” said a friend who used to do repair work for an Apple Store.

A dozen trips in a carry-on bag had left light scratches on the casing, ripped off three of the four rubber feet, and partially damaged the magnetic clips that held the laptop shut. The power adaptor, already having been replaced twice for different reasons, was starting to fray. The battery had half its original charge capacity. The screen was still in great shape, and OS X continued to function as smoothly as ever, but the system was getting long in the tooth (and short on free hard drive space). Out with the old, in with the new, as they used to say, or Craigslist the old, credit the new, as they say now.

Enter the new MacBook Pro, with its crisp, glass-enclosed, high-resolution screen, silky keyboard, rockin’ smooth trackpad, and sturdy Unibody construction. Oh, that Unibody! Steve Jobs wasn’t kidding when he said it was revolutionary. I feel like I could hurl this thing across the room without a problem (not that I’m looking to verify that theory). As this was my first Mac-to-Mac transition, I finally got to put Time Machine to the test. An extra hour during the first boot, and it’s like this was always my machine. Brilliant. Criminal that other operating systems don’t do the same.

Everything about this machine screams, “I AM THE ONLY COMPUTER YOU WILL EVER NEED,” even though I know it’s not true. I’ll be back here again in another three years.



  1. The Southerner wrote:

    See, the first half of this article really made me think that you had confused roommates. We are both tall, after all, and are both famous for our Gazes of Being Fairly Unimpressed With Things.

    I was actually just about to point this out to The Midwesterner when I came to the paragraph mentioning Tall One’s ancient HP, your description of which gave me the vapours. Oh, right. Not me.

    I’m so vain.

  2. The Tall One wrote:

    Man, I’m proud of milking those poor bastards till their death rattles. The only computer my family hasn’t worked until it gave up the ghost was the one I just sold two weeks ago.

    And to be fair, I’m pretty sure I had OBJECTIVE proof that turning off the power strip, cutting my palm, and incanting the book of the dead helped the HP turn on.