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Rudislav - DepositPhotos.com

Rudislav – DepositPhotos.com

We live in a time when everyday tools have a short life expectancy.  The list includes appliances, HVAC systems, mechanical yard implements, and of course, the computer, to name the more popular.   When appliances or the AC goes down, it is inconvenient, often expensive, but we move on to replacement mode with a modicum of swearing, then acceptance. For writers, when the desktop or laptop goes to its heavenly motherboard, all hell breaks loose.

Such was the case when my trusty, Vista speaking, Dell desktop died from the cyber equivalent of advanced age and MRSA.  I give the old bean credit for surviving this long.  Once the darling of House Gates, eyesight failure hampered its ability to translate internet banner ads that have become the web’s version of LED highway billboards.  Its shuffling gait between screens should have warned me the end is near.  I was in denial, like any loving family whose geriatric parent started forgetting things.

Laptops are fine, but compressed keyboards impede my typing efficiency.  I’ve been using the same desktop for over six years.  It had all the latest blinking lights and latest software when I bought it. It came with a cheap online backup program and lots of support for IT challenged nimrods like me.  You can see this coming, can’t you.  Over time, support disappeared into that alternate dimension of dead-end loops.  Webpage is there, but nobody is home.  Microsoft continued a twilight-light-zone take-over of the operating system, making sure it’s child was kept up to date.  I did my part, backing up important data as often as possible and comply with whatever the wizard of MS told me.

Something was off when I booted-up the old fella after an extended absence from home.  Slower than usual, but I had respect for its age.  Maybe it was time to clean-out some of the stuff it hoarded in the attic. Afterward, it seemed a little better, yet, it didn’t feel right.  A routine MS wizard box popped up with another update.  Maybe the doctor ordered a new prescription. Here gramps … take this, it’ll make you feel better.

Warning … screen blinking … hard drive palpitating … it’s going to  … it’s going … OMG …

Major cyberac infarction. Count with me … reboot … safe mode … reboot … system restore … breathe dammit … stay with me … you can’t … you can’t …

The gravelly voice of Bones McCoy whispered in my head.  He’s dead, Jim.

I ran to my wife’s laptop to sign in on Dell’s automatic backup site.  Last successful backup … last April. What?  My own heart thumped in panic.  All those words, half a damn book, blog articles, ideas, notes.

I’m deathly afraid of mainstream computer hospitals, staffed with snarky, indifferent geek squads who charge big money to confirm a death and provide grief counseling by offering the latest overpriced show model.  With a hard swallow, I carried the body to a local computer guy who works out of his house.  A quick autopsy confirmed it.  It was a perfect storm of calamities.  The old guy couldn’t handle it.

A spy, masquerading as an update wizard, slipped past my expensive Titanium security gate, carrying cyber-SARS in its blood.  Grandpa Vista wasn’t strong enough to fight it because MS Medicare no longer covered this age group. We can save his memories, yes?   Dell promised.  I paid them.  The computer tech shook his head and placed a hand on my shoulder.  I guess you haven’t read about Michael Dell’s battle to save his company.  They killed the backup program couple of months ago, but didn’t tell anybody.  Confusion of bankruptcy proceedings.

I longed for a chapel, or wooded grove, to mourn the loss.  I’m faced with allowing into my home, the reckless child known as Windows 8, which has no patience for desktops.  I can’t do Apple, I’m too old to learn a new language.  The computer guy sensed my grief and offered to build me a new desktop with newer peripherals, a tried and true, premium Windows 7 operating system and a stronger security gate that geeks like him use today.  You can do that?  He smiled and promised he’d also liposuck Grandpa’s memories.  It’ll feel different, sort of cloning gramps into a new body, including curmudgeon habits, but I’ll get used to it.

Waiting for delivery, I still feel a little lost. I’m writing this article on my wife’s laptop.  I hate it. Damned track panel mouse keeps kicking the cursor to a different line, and all my favorites in internet explorer are … not there.  I miss the old fella. Not sure the replacement whippersnapper can fill the void, but I count myself among the lucky.  The legacy of my old Vista will survive and I’ve learned a valuable lesson. I alone am responsible for preserving the memory.  No more reliance on outside snake charmers selling lifetime guarantees.  It’s regular backup here at home on a separate drive for me.

Next time, I’ll be ready for when the grim reaper of unplanned obsolescence comes to visit.