Wednesday, March 5, 2008
The Attack of the Motherboard
I haven’t posted in a while because a tragic mishap befell my computer. A couple of weeks ago, I caught a bad cold and decided to work from bed. I got all comfy with pillows and put my laptop on my knees and managed to be quite productive despite my malaise. Feeling pleased with myself, I climbed out of bed, placed my closed laptop on my dresser, and plugged it in to let it charge. About a half an hour later, careening around the apartment getting ready to go pick up my son from school, I tore into my room, tripped over the cable, and watched my computer take a four-foot dive onto the floor, where it bounced with a grisly thud. I felt like I was watching a small child get into an accident. I gingerly picked it up, hoping and praying that the “titanium” exterior of my beloved PowerBook protected its fragile insides. Alas, when I booted up, it made all the appropriate noises, but the screen remained distressingly black.
As soon as it was physically possible, I ran my computer over to the nearest Mac hospital, and explained what had happened. The technician looked grim. “We won’t know anything until we open it up,” he warned, as he prepared to wheel my laptop off to surgery. “It could be a simple matter of changing a minor card, or it could be that we’ll have to change The Motherboard.” There are few words fraught with as much tension and danger as the word “Motherboard.” It makes one think of some enormous, ominous-looking spacecraft hovering over Earth, threatening to blow up the planet. Another unpleasant element was that in the first case I would be out a mere 350 euros, and in the second, over 800 euros, clearly more than my three-year old was worth.
I went home, relieved that my computer was in capable hands, but nervous about the diagnosis. Two days later, the call came. “I’m sorry to tell you this. It’s The Motherboard.” Shock, dismay, existential angst—a whirlwind of inappropriate emotions overcame me. How could I feel so emotionally attached to a bunch of circuits? I couldn’t help it. I felt I was looking into the void. No more Internet access. No more e-mail. No more writing. What would I do? What would become of me? What about The Future?
After several hours of such gloomy thoughts, it occurred to me that I could simply buy a monitor and hook my laptop up to it, since after all, the computer worked, even if the screen was whacked. And my husband brought to my attention the fact that if I bought the correct cable, I could even hook it up to our flat-screen TV, which is how I am currently writing these words. But between the accident and the cable hook up, over a week passed by where I did not have a computer. I have to admit, it was kind of a revelation. First of all, I realized that I can talk to my friends by telephone. Then it occurred to me that if a pen and paper were good enough for Shakespeare and Dickens, they were good enough for me. Most importantly, my insomnia, which has been cursing my existence since I had brain surgery in June (I can’t wait until I get to use that line at a cocktail party) vanished during that week.
Mark Bittman wrote a lovely article in the International Herald Tribune (March 3) about the terror and joy of turning everything off on the weekend, pointing out that not so long ago we all lived without cell phones and Internet and were none the worse for it (and perhaps better off). While I have no intention of tuning out, this experience has made me rethink my priorities a bit, and where exactly my computer should be on that list. If nothing else, for the sake of my sleep cycles, I shall henceforth shut down after 9pm. The Mother of the Motherboard has spoken.