I'm dreaming of a White laptop...

Me with Keith in 2009
... or any colour really. It doesn't matter that much, as long as it does the job. My old laptop Keith (named after a Rolling Stone - he's very old and has seen better days, falling to pieces, but is still just about functioning), is just about to pop his clogs I fear. I'm not sure if Keith will even make it to the conclusion of this blog post, he's making ominous chugging and whining noises (which I suppose is also a little like his namesake). You see, Keith is almost 8 years old. In computer years that is way beyond geriatric. His CD-ROM drive packed in ages ago, some of his USB ports have ceased to care, and all of his appendages, his rubber feet and other accouterments have long departed. Even his volume control has shuffled off this mortal coil. He is quite frankly, in a sorry state. But still he soldiers bravely on. If I take Keith out to use with my students, there are often remarks like: Wow, is that a museum piece? or, OMG that laptop must be almost as old as you! Cheeky beggars. They lose a few grade points for that.

In fairness, Keith does come from another era. He is chunky and thick, his battery has hardly any life in it (the only way I can operate him is to plug him in to the mains), and he is slowing down noticeably. If I don't remove him from my lap after 30 minutes I risk sustaining scorch marks to my legs, because he heats up to the point of shutdown. He takes an eternity to boot up every time I switch him on. He takes ages to shut down. He finds it difficult to do simple tasks, like opening a new browser window. Did I mention he is very, very .... slow? He suffers from the laptop version of arthritis I guess. As we get older, we all suffer from some form of mobility issue, but for Keith it has become a part of his core personality. If he ever did anything fast, I think I would run out of the room in shock.

He is crashing out on a regular basis these days. Self induced coma. Keith is asleep more than he is awake, and several times I have thought I have lost him forever, given some of the error messages I see on the screen. Once or twice he has refused to get out of bed at all, but after a few days of black screen, he mysteriously resurrects himself. It's as if he is struggling to escape his inevitable eternal dark void. But the best thing about Keith is that he never suffers from a loss of memory. Not since I invested in an external hard drive. Now Keith never loses any data. Because it's all offloaded into an external medium, which is kept separately to him, in case he ever suffers from the computer equivalent of incontinence or something worse.

I still take care of Keith. I have not dropped him since that notorious incident at a conference in 2007. He survived, but for several glasses of wine and the table cloth, it was a terminal experience. These days Keith doesn't travel with me to far off destinations. You won't see him at conferences, weddings or Bar-Mitzvahs anymore. He is too old for air flights now. He resides at home where he is comfortable, chugging slowly along, performing his tasks in his own time. I wouldn't want to bury him in some far off foreign field.

So it is time for a new laptop. Christmas is nearly upon us, and I will be disappointed if I receive any more gifts of socks, frankincense (Brut aftershave) or myrrh. Gold I will cope with. But this year, at the risk of offending my anthopomorphised little digital companion, and hastening his sad demise, I want a new, fast operating, graphically rich and very streamlined laptop. I want a device I can take with me everywhere, use any time, quickly and without too much fuss, and certainly without attracting any snide comments from my students. And yet, whatever Santa brings me, whatever shape and form my new laptop takes, I will always think fondly of Keith, my faithful laptop from which all my blogs, slideshows and articles have emanated over these last 8 years.

And in the future, if he is still able, I will occasionally fire him up just to say hello. And I will remember.

Photo by James Clay

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I'm dreaming of a White laptop... by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


David said…
To get Keith to boot up and shut down quicker, install a lightweight Linux distribution. That won't solve the hardware problems, but will speed things up. I've done it on old laptops myself.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for your advice David. It may sustain Keith's working life for a little longer :)
Alan Foster said…
How is Keith doing in the 2013?
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for asking Alan. Keith is alive, but his kick is weakening a little. In fact I'm typing on his keyboard as I write this.
Alan Foster said…
That's one machine that won't lay down easily. That's true loyalty towards you from Keith. Cheers for Keith!

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