Recently I had a family tragedy. Well, it felt like one anyway. My beloved laptop, my constant companion and best friend, packed up due to a fault with its ‘logic board.’ The same problem, in fact, that affected Danna Vale recently when she made those comments about Australia aborting itself out of existence.
I had to ship its glorious, shiny body off to the repair shop, where it had a two week respite from me relentlessly pounding its keys while checking the news websites every fifteen minutes to see whether there was a new Paris Hilton scandal, or crazed gunman Dick Cheney had shot anyone else. Which is more or less my job description as editor of The Chaser website. Well, that and dealing with employees who’ve sent Michael Leunig cartoons to Iran on their own time, but put our office phone number in the email.
So the laptop was having a fine old time living it up at the computer equivalent of a health spa, getting its insides scrubbed clean and lots of shiny new replacement parts added. It was seeing other people, like the kindly technician who knew how to make it feel good in ways that I didn’t even understand. Apparently he ‘zapped its PRAM’, which I guess more or less means blowing its mind. I was so jealous when I heard that. And I was left cooling my heels at home, missing it desperately whenever I wanted to check my bank balance, listen to music, or even just check my email. As Dionne Warwick put it, there was always something there to remind me.
Oh, I tried getting back out there. I tried seeing other computers – I went to my mum’s house and using hers all day. In other words, I tried to deal with the separation by moving back home. But it just wasn’t the same. It didn’t have all my email, my programs, my bookmarks – all my familiar stuff. It’s hard for guys like me to just change like that overnight, and develop a whole new relationship with a different computer. I’m not one of those PC playboys, with a laptop in every port. I’m just a simple guy who wants one, committed, monogamous computer he can call his own.
But because I work on the internet all day, this situation posed a huge problem. It wasn’t just my private life that was in disarray – it was affecting my work as well. I found I couldn’t get any work done. Offensive satirical news stories were not getting posted. People were starting to notice. They’d take me to one side and ask me what was wrong. Although their sympathy did start to wane when they heard that it was just a broken computer. You wouldn’t understand unless it’s happened to you.
Eventually it came back from the shop. It was an emotional reunion. Well, I cried, at least – it just booted correctly, which is as much emotion as I’ve come to expect from it. And all my files were still there. It was like it’d never gone away. I was so happy.
Initially, there was a degree of awkwardness there. It’s not easy to just pick up where you left off, and just forgive the pain you’ve been through. I wouldn’t have minded if it had needed just a day or two away, but two weeks was a really long time to leave me.
I found myself not trusting it anymore. What if it happened again? Perhaps on a permanent basis? I realised I’d become too attached. I was stifling it by spending all my time with it. So I’ve agreed to give it some space. I’m going to start using other computers as well. So that if it needs to go away again, I won’t be left high and dry.
We think we’re the generation that use computers. But what I discovered when I had to cope for two weeks without my laptop is that in fact it’s computers that are using us.