I need you to understand that I didn’t think of my laptop as old. I felt the same way about it as I do about myself, basically, which is that I’m not getting any older, my kids are just catching up. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels this way about themselves and their laptops.
Mine was a black plastic Macbook that was built sometime in 2006 and purchased by me sometime in 2007. For seven years we went basically everywhere together, including to work and home every day with the machine in the bag on my back as I biked 35 miles round trip. This was no small thing because the computer and the charger weighed six pounds combined.
I had a few scares. Like the time in 2011 when I realized the battery was swelling, or the two times the power cord died, but the computer just kept on going.
Signs of imminent demise
There were some indications that black plastic MacBooks were perhaps not meant to endure daily use for that long. The screen had a nicotine-yellow haze to it that had nothing to do with nicotine. If I kept it on my lap for too long without anything between the bottom of the computer and the top of my thighs I was running a legitimate risk of second degree burns. If I opened up too many windows (or just watched a video) the fan kicked in like a jet engine, sometimes making more noise than whatever audio was coming from the computer.
People who saw it couldn’t help but comment, and not in a “wow that’s quite a laptop” sort of way, more like what you say to people who are walking a very old dog. I didn’t think much of this until the day I was sitting at a table in an Au Bon Pain and a guy stopped by to say how cool it was that I was holding onto this old computer, and he had one too, and it was like we were talking about antique cars except nobody told me mine was an antique. When he left my first thought was what’s wrong with that guy and my second was, maybe it’s time to get a new computer.
Then it stopped working. Or it stopped getting power or something. I turned it on, and the screen popped in for a good forty seconds while it tried to load, and then it turned off again. This happened on a Monday night. The following morning, I turned it on again and it powered up and made it all the way past the sign-in screen, which was long enough for me to see a black X across the battery symbol. So that day I researched black X-es across battery symbols to see if that meant anything, and concluded that I needed a new battery.
That night, I biked home, showered and changed, grabbed the laptop, the car, and my wife, and headed for the nearest Apple store to buy a new battery.
To give you an idea of how old my computer actually was, when I pulled it out in the store to show the helpful Apple person–whose name I think might have been Brienne–what kind of battery I needed, three things happened.
- Brienne took two steps back and asked if the machine could even turn on
- Her supervisor came over from clear across the store, possibly trying not to actually sprint to us, to notify Brienne that this was probably a “vintage” and she should check the serial number
- Brienne expressed her firm belief that the only place to get a battery for this device was on eBay, but she would check just in case.
I asked what vintage meant, because it sounded like a good thing, but it turns out that’s not a good thing when you’re talking about a computer. Vintage means it’s so old they have no way of diagnosing it or fixing it, and are pretty sure they don’t want to touch it because it might have ick, and anyway nobody there knows how it might function. Lamb’s blood and motor oil, probably.
With the laptop still open and infecting the shiny new Mac products on the table, incredibly, an Apple employee appeared from the back–and/or from 2007– with the battery I needed. In the right color and everything.
* * *
Brienne: I thought for sure if we had it, it would only be in white.
Me: Did you honestly think I cared what color the battery was?
* * *
We popped the battery in, and my ancient computer limped back to life, and there was much rejoicing. I explained that my readers will be happy because I promised them a short story by now (yeah, so, Immortal and the Madman is gonna be late) and Brienne asked if I was secretly famous, and I said haha, so secretly famous even the people who I’m famous with don’t think I’m famous, and my wife piped up with “His mother does,” and haha again, and that’s why I brought her.
Anyway. After that I turned off my monster and went to look at what computer I was going to have to save up for pretty soon, and a helpful fellow named Zach showed me the options and asked how much memory I needed, so we pulled the beast out again and turned it on again to find out. I’m telling you this only so you understand that TWICE in the Apple store I turned my computer on and TWICE it worked.
Then I got home with my old computer with the new battery, tired and hungry but happy that I didn’t have to worry about the expense of a new computer yet, and then I pulled the laptop out to catch up on all the exciting soft core porn that is my Tumblr feed and… it wouldn’t turn on. At all. This wasn’t the “oh look, the screen lit up annnnnnd now it’s gone” thing from before, this was stone cold brick dead. Despite coming to life twice to perform for various members of the Apple retail cult, once home it refused to wake up even long enough to get the hard drive backed up one last time.
In with the new
I bought a new laptop on Wednesday–technically a “certified reconditioned” laptop that was $200 cheaper and not in my hands until Friday. (My choices were to save the $200 and not have the computer for an additional two days or pay full price and have a new one by the end of Wednesday. If this seems like a no-brainer let me point out that I never went more than two days without the old laptop for SEVEN YEARS.) This one is a Macbook Pro that is essentially the same thing as what I used to have but with a better screen, hard drive, casing, mouse pad, keyboard–Jesus Christ, how long have you people had backlit keyboards this is WONDERFUL–and battery.
By the way, if you want to know the worst part about all this, I’m not sure if it was the part where I had to go four days without a computer, or the part where, after four days without the computer, I plugged my backup drive into the new computer and then had to stare at this screen: