Friday, January 16, 2015

Changing the Low Tech

I bought a new laptop this week.

I know that may not sound very earth-shattering, but before you scoff, you need to understand that my old laptop was purchased in  2006.

Yes, that's right.  I was using a laptop that was 8 1/2 years old.  No, I didn't really have another computer.  I have one in my office, but I don't really work on the computer in my office.

You're probably thinking something along the lines of the question I was recently asked by a friend: "But... doesn't it run... kinda... slow?"

Well, that really depends on what your tech standards are.  Let me walk you through my morning ritual, and you can be the judge.

Typically, I get up to the sound of my happy little kitty Juno meowing the verbal equivalent of, "Cmon!  Cmon!  Get up!  I really want to see you!!"  She usually isn't allowed access to me because I'm flanked by my other two kitties, who tend to sleep on or next to/on me.  Smokey would probably let Juno approach, but Freya will not.

So when I get up, I'm usually laughing--because if you could see my little Juno and how excited she gets at the very thought that I'm getting out of bed, you'd laugh too.

From that point onward, my first priority has always been to turn on my computer and then go feed the kitties and brew the coffee.

Once I've done the latter two things, my computer is usually ready for me to enter my password. (Unless it decides to freeze or hang, which it didn't do all that often, really.

Once I've entered my password and clicked "Enter," I have time to do things like make the bed and empty the litter box and pour my coffee and open the shades and get dressed (just to clarify, I get dressed BEFORE I open the shades) and wash my face and comb my hair.

By then, my computer is fully booted up and ready for me to open email.

I guess on some level, yes, to most people, that means my old laptop is running kinda slow and I may or may not be insane for tolerating such nonsense.

Quite frankly,  I think I didn't notice because, over the years, I just added a new morning task to my morning ritual, so that always filled the time just fine.  No need to worry about the laptop.  It'll get there when it gets there.

Imagine my surprise the other morning when I turned my new laptop on and it was immediately ready for my password.  I mean, immediately.   I didn't even have time to turn around and head out to the kitchen.  There it was, asking for my password... right away.

So I entered it and hit enter and got up from my chair, and once again, color me stunned: it was already ready for me to begin... using it.  Just like that.  In less than a minute.

I sat there in bewildered surprise and mumbled things like, "But I don't even have my coffee yet...".

Needless to say, this has meant that I now need to revise my entire morning ritual.

I can't say I'm overly surprised.  I was aware when Microsoft announced that they would no longer support Windows XP that I was living on borrowed time.  But I'll also confess that a small part of me rejoiced, because if they didn't keep updating Windows XP anymore, to me that simply meant that there would be less added to the mix to slow my laptop down.  I bought a whole 6 months of extra laptop-time right there.

But there were moments.  Like when I tried to run a trial version of Acrobat XI last spring.  I really thought that at some point during the installation process a window would pop up and say, "You're kidding, right?"  

As one of my friends said, "You can actually hear the little computer chipmunks in there, running on their treadmills, trying to keep up."

And students would upload files that would open just fine everywhere else in the world, but my laptop would convert them to 200-page documents that had a single line (something like "poifii679ng%^werttyy*") printed in the middle of each page.  

Sigh.

Ultimately, I'm a creature of habit, not a creature of gadgets.  Don't get me wrong, I like a cool new software program same as anybody (hence my ill-fated effort to "play around" with Acrobat XI last spring), but really, I couldn't care less about the latest devices and their purported marvels.

If what I have works, I tend to stick with that, and I'll simply try to use new software on it.  But as you can imagine, there's a whole technology industry out there designed to thwart people like me.

People who grew up being told that if something "works" or was "still good," you didn't need a new one.  New things were for emergencies and necessities.  Buying things just to buy them was considered foolish.  "You're just squandering your money"--that's how it was explained to me, back in the day.

It's a different world.

I think that, in the case of my laptop, I would have purchased a new one a bit sooner, but there was an emotional aspect to it as well.  I bought that laptop the summer my dad died.   By which I mean that I bought it and brought it home and set it up while I was in process of providing hospice care for him.

For a long time,  I couldn't even face the thought of getting a new laptop.  I would get even a bit defensive about that laptop--it had an emotional resonance for me that I suspect most computers and devices don't often have for the people who purchase them year after year. 

So when I began to realize that it just wouldn't be feasible to keep on keepin' on with the old laptop, I set myself a very clear point in time to make the switch: I'd wait until I'd cleared most of the major hurdles to promotion to Full Professor.

On the one hand, the choice was a pragmatic one, because most of the stuff I needed to access as part of the application process was on my old laptop.  Although I could easily transfer it all to a new laptop, there's something about knowing that you know where absolutely everything is and how to manage it that makes a lengthy application process a bit more manageable.

On the other hand, the choice was one that was designed to address the emotional component embedded in the old laptop.  It had been purchased at a watershed moment in my life; unfortunately, it was a negative watershed moment. 

But that was something I could remedy, if I timed the purchase to coincide with a new phase and a positive milestone in my professional life.

So that's what I did.  And because I waited so long, I'm not only enjoying the speed and the ease of all kinds of technology, I'm savoring something that truly is new, not just something that's a bit updated compared to last year's model.

But all that said, it's been a week in which there's been a lot more time spent in front of a computer screen than I usually allot for myself, so to compensate, I'm off to spend this cloudy, wintry Friday afternoon the way that (in my opinion) wintry Friday afternoons should be spent: making soup and knitting.

Because in my world, the only thing that beats low-tech is homemade and handmade.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."