September 14, 2010

Falling Back on Technology

There's this relatively new show on some cable channel I surf by occasionally that's dedicated to chronicling the behavior of "hoarders." "Hoarders" is a generous term given to people who just refuse to throw anything away and eventually live in houses packed to the rafters with trash.

While I don't necessarily consider myself a "hoarder" in the vein portrayed on the cable television show, I have to profess, when it comes to computer technology, I tend to save a whole lot of stuff that is way, way, way past its useful shelf life.

Take, for example, the several dozen 3.5 inch formatted diskettes I have stacked on my desk. These little gems of a long gone computing era can hold a whopping 1.44 megabytes (MBs) of data (non-compressed). I have no idea what's even on 95 percent of the disks, and yet I hold on to them for reasons not entirely clear to me.

Or, consider the choking number of CDs and DVDs that have data burned into them that may have been useful eight years ago, but today are about as useful as a head cold. I simply can't prompt myself to dispose of them, because there's part of me that can't accept the idea that a 2001 version of Microsoft Works won't somehow come back into technology fashion. So, it all sits on my desk, chaotically lined up and categorized in no particular order, waiting for a nuclear war that will one day put humanity back into the computing days of Windows 95 or, worse, DOS.

Diskettes and CDs are relatively minor hoarding items, but I also have three fully functioning computers, spanning the last 12 years of computing innovation, which take up far more space that would frankly be better utilized for storing shoes, or old Playboy magazines.

I hold on to old computers for one simple reason: I never know when my current computer will take a dive on me and leave me in computing limbo, which happened last week. I came home one evening, tried to fire up my computer, and it responded by not responding at all. When your primary source of income comes from freelance writing conducted at home, not having a computer is sort of like an Olympic marathon runner waking up one day without legs.

In desperation, I turned to a computer I mothballed back in December of 2007. Computer technology really is astonishing. You wouldn't think two-and-a-half years would be considered all that long, but as far as computing technology goes, it's like five generations ago. When my old computer was plugged into the Internet for the first time in 2.5 years, it was like shaking Rip Van Winkle awake after 20 years.

Within minutes of coming back to life, my computer was pleading with me to install software update after software update. It was like a parched man who had been wandering in the desert, begging for a glass of water. "There's a Windows Service Pack 3! Install it! Install it!" "Java updates! Give me Java updates!" "Don't you know there's an Adobe 8.1 available? Give it to me NOW!"

The problem with all the upgrade demands my computer was making was that it only has a 80 gigabyte (GB) hard drive, which is sadly pathetic by today's standards, so even though it was frantically updating itself, it was basically filling itself to capacity.

Thankfully, I should be able to muddle through with my old computer long enough to troubleshoot and repair my other computer, and hopefully I won't have to fall back on my other OTHER computer, which was mothballed back in 2001 and frankly couldn't take the shock of learning about a Windows Service Pack 2, let alone Service Pack 3.

In the meantime, it's kind of neat having a 3.5 disk drive again, so I can find out what's on all those old disks I have laying around.

Posted by Ryan at September 14, 2010 08:21 AM | TrackBack

A few months ago I bought an Apple IIc (c 1988) on eBay. No monitor. Fortunately, when I got it I confirmed that the video out was in fact a standard RCA socket.

So I plugged it into my 40" flat panel HD TV.

There I was sitting in a chair in the middle of my living room, with a monitor bigger than the makers of this computer could have ever imagined for it, rocking the ProDOS with 5.25" floppies that hadn't seen the light of day since the first Bush administration.

Found some old low-res animation I had made in the fourth grade (c 1981). Good times. ;-)

Posted by: Stephen R at December 20, 2010 04:30 PM
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