When I was sixteen I had been saving my allowance for about four years. Yes, I was a skinflint way back when I was twelve. Hell, I’ve been a miser since I was four. My ultimate goal was to buy a laptop, and I figured that I was well on track to have a shiny new one just in time for college. At the time I was using desktop from ’92 which did not like its upgrade to Win95 at all. You can probably trace my extreme bias against Windows to coddling that machine, eventually named C.I.C., through running Word 6.0, tetris, and Donkey Kong. I didn’t do much of anything else with it, Dad’s computer was the only one with an internet hookup and he was just then in the process of wiring the house for a network. CIC handled the network well enough that I could get school assignments printed, but it did not like the internet at all and trying to run Netscape was as good as asking for a blue screen of death.
Anyway, I was talking about when I turned sixteen. That was a particularly good birthday for me that year. Pappa gave me round trip plane tickets to Oakland so I could visit a friend in California. I took my first plane ride a little over a month later and set my pattern of flying alone and having remarkably good luck with dodging delays. (We can just gloss over the traumatic experiences of the Salt Lake to Oakland leg of that flight) I got the electric guitar as a pity present since I’d been trying to teach myself guitar on Dad’s old acoustic, which was trying very hard to come apart, and my parents suspected that if I got a decent guitar I’d finally make a breakthrough and learn something. Don uses it now, and I know less about playing guitar now than I did when I was sixteen.
But the best present I got that birthday was an offer from Dad to match me, dollar for dollar, in buying a laptop. Apparently he hadn’t quite finished talking that through with Mom because she flipped and said something like, “Do you have any idea how long she’s been pinching pennies for that thing? She’s got a huge pile of money hidden in her nightstand.” So it became a matching deal up to $600.
We waited for the fall when most of the new models would be released in anticipation for Christmas. Then, on October 16 when we were down visiting the Grandparents in VA, we went shopping. There were no computer shows in town just then but we hit every store that sold laptops then. This was the year that touch pads became standard instead of the eraser head and I searched everywhere looking for a laptop that still had the eraser head. The early touch pads were offset to the left a little bit to keep righties from bumping them while they were working, which made them very inconveniently placed since I’m left-leaning ambidextrous. (I’ve heard all the political jokes already) We finally found a Toshiba at Circuit city that was an older model and had an eraser head. Dad was on his second Toshiba as his work computer and I’d been using it over summers to feed my need to produce five pages of text a day during the summer and liked them. Then, of course, they find out that the only one of that model they have left is the display, but they’ll give me the new one for the same price as the old one. It had a touchpad, but it was centered and the sales guy assured me that I could turn off the tapping if it was a problem. (I wound up adjusting it to reduce its sensitivity) $1,275 before tax, I got my very first computer that was mine since technically I had to share CIC with my sis, and it really belonged to Dad anyway. I clutched the brown Toshiba all the way to Grannie’s, watched in awe as my Dad and Uncle ran through the initial setup – gee computers were so cool! My Uncle spent the whole time grumbling a bit over how Windows runs its setup and how inefficient it was, the seeds for my later Linux addiction were planted, but just then I was all sorts of glee over my dark gray notebook with the attractive light gray strip along the hinges.
They get to the part in the setup where they have to put in the user name. I just use my first name since my insistence on using all four of my names (two middles, my parents don’t believe in hyphens) had not yet extended to my computer environment. Then I have to name the computer. I knew about needing to name computers in order to tell them apart on a network and up to that point all two of the family computers had functional names. C.I.C. was Computer In Closet, because I had it setup on a desk in my walk-in closet, and C.I.D. was Computer in Dining Room, for obvious reasons. But this little thing of much anticipation and beauty had to be special, and so I, rather naively but with the best intentions, recall this Hindu god from the Rg Veda which I’d been reading the month before. I was just starting in on my interest in Hinduism having slowly worked my parents into comfort with me reading up on current religions by exhausting a lot of mythology, and there was this one god who despite being extremely awesome, the footnotes of the Rg Veda assured me wasn’t worshiped any longer. I didn’t like it very much and, being Anaea and therefore deciding not to put up with something I didn’t like, decided to bring this obscure god back to life by naming my cherished computer after him. Thus I named my first computer after one of the most popular Hindu gods who is, I assure you, still actively worshiped. I had a friend first year in college who was almost inclined to take offense, except that it was kinda funny – stupid white girl – and that fact that I’d clearly done it as a sign of respect and reverence. I’ve said it here before, but I was in love with that computer.
Three years later, toward the end of my first year of college, you could see where my palms rested to either side of the touch pad as I typed because the surface was discolored there. Vishnu’s lack of wireless card was a little annoying, but not a real problem since I still used my computer for Spider Solitaire and Word more than anything. I was a competent administrator, did all my software maintenance myself, curious about this Fedora thing my Uncle kept talking about, but just too busy with other things to worry about messing with my little baby. We’d been together for three years, which meant more time than any of my friendships up to that point, and so, of course, he died.
The next laptop was an early birthday present from Pappa since I wasn’t getting much of anything done despite moving into the dorm computer lab. Another Toshiba, he was blue, and I made sure to pick a god who was good and dead, and one who didn’t have a history of resurrection. I wasn’t nearly as attached to that computer, what with actually having healthy relationships with other people and my inability to turn out five hundred words a day let alone five whole pages while working third shift and actively ignoring very nasty mono. So I experimented with that one, learned a lot about computers, and operating systems, and later when I got a fried desktop to play with about hardware and what does what and why and now, though it always surprises me since I’ve mostly just picked it up as I’ve gone along, I know quite a lot more about computers and their problems than I did while Vishnu was in his death throes.
With two months of quality time with the parents, my sister’s imminent matriculation in college, my third and nicest laptop (flarking burglars) back in the bookbag case I used for Vishnu, and awareness of the awesome power of the LiveCD, and vowed to unpack Vishnu’s corpse and breathe new life into him.
The old diagnosis is quite right, despite my utterly ignorant fumbling at the time. It came from Dad originally and I decided that it made sense, though now I’ve seen it often enough to diagnose it myself; Vishnu’s motherboard is fried. I can get the BIOS to come up, barely, but there is no operating system on the hard drive that he can find (I never wiped the system, so it should still be there) and reading the CD just leaves me with a blinking cursor and nothing else. Cause of death was almost certainly overheating since I didn’t recognize the symptoms he’d been displaying for months before, but all indications at the time were that the hard drive was in tact.
Tomorrow I’m going to filch a parental vehicle and look for a place not a Best Buy or a RadioShack in search of the right kind of case and turn Vishnu’s hard drive into a 20GB external drive. Granted, 20GB isn’t much these days, the iPod I’m getting to replace the burgled one is an 80 gigger, but it’s enough for a bootable Ubuntu install and saving the non-music/video files that I need. I’ll use it to make my work laptop tolerable when I’m on the road starting in August. Besides, I’m still nostalgic about Vishnu, and I like the idea of carrying around his soul in my laptop bag. The work laptop will have to be an avatar of Vishnu, and the Windows partition can be representative of the weakness of the human form. Yeah, I like that idea a lot. Little bugger reincarnates after all.