My grandmother had a fairly close relationship with a piano. I have an intimate relationship with an Imac.
It is possible, perhaps even probable, to love a machine. I’m sure my computer has altered the way I think. Not necessarily for the worse. Just another tool, or instrument, like the washing machine or piano.
You know this is true when the machine dies, as it did for me this week. My own fault. I decided to install a new operating system: it wasn’t expensive. From what I read online, it wasn’t complicated or risky.
Except it was, and I should have known. It wasn’t a terrible disaster, or anything. I only lost about two hours’ worth of work. Fifteen years of production and human interaction was saved on a back-up drive and re-installed on a new machine, and I do like new machines. They smell so lovely, and are wondrous in their magical ability to do all sorts of things.
But the effect it has on the brain is weird. To begin with, I was almost nonchalant about it all. That was because I was in shock. Then I went back to my very old laptop and managed to do a little of the work I needed to do, and (because with HappenStance time is of the essence) bought a new Imac. I used a credit card and the Bank of Scotland fraud people phoned me to check I wasn’t a thief, which shows how long it is since I bought anything on credit.
Then four days with no computer, during which time I realised how much of my life was sitting waiting inside the little black external hard drive on my desk. Perhaps it’s possible to save too much. Perhaps we should let more go.
Then the new machine came and I began to discover which recovered programs wouldn’t work properly and why. Back to trawling through online discussion groups, always a mixture of horror and fascination for me. Fascination because of the wonder that all these people are there all the time swapping stories and information and helpful ideas. Horror because each one, at some point, tips into terminology that’s a foreign language.
However, I did work my way through a set of suggestions to make Creative Suite work again, after one of its files was corrupted in the hand-over, and something must have worked because the programs are now accessible again. Microsoft Office was more complicated. Apparently I am the only person in the UK to have purchased a year’s supply of software for one machine as a one-off purchase, and then (during this week’s crisis) software for another on a monthly payment basis. The technology wouldn’t install, and so I became implicated with online chat, and phone calls. I online-chatted my way, with different people, in different organisations, through:
- Microsoft Office not downloading
- an email address that wouldn’t work
- I-photo that was there but couldn't be located.
The online chats and phone calls on Friday lasted till 11.30pm. I was chatting with someone in Jamaica, then someone in the Philippines, and then I think someone in Ireland, though he could just have had an Irish accent.
How astonishing it is that these great conglomerate organisations offer this kind of assistance! I know it’s all in the name of making money out of us – but still. The guys who help (and phone calls became involved too) are kind and charming and intelligent and global. Something humbling about that. And they’re not full of nasty hype. During one phone call, I apologised for being stupid (this stuff does make you feel stupid, and slow). My helpmeet said that on the scale of stupid, in these kind of phone calls, I did not rate very high.
The process of changing all the information, vast swathes of my thinking over the last fifteen years, from one machine to another, involved flashing lights and clicking, and soft, reassuring little engine noises. Most efficient. The new machine is humming softly now in the background. Tiny clicks, familiar as my own heartbeat. The keyboard is soft and new, and the letter M is visible again. The printer is producing documents that look a little different, but it is talking to the Imac, and they’ll learn to get on.
But I have a funny sensation somewhere in my head, a slight disorientation. I feel as though I’ve been poured from one body into another and the world has been re-set. I feel as though I’ve been reprocessed. Re-incarnated, even. It is extremely strange.
ps On Friday afternoon, the door of the washing machine broke. This will be fixed on Tuesday. It hasn't interrupted my concentration at all.