I don’t tend to be a sentimental person, and I’ve never been accused of being overly-demonstrative. I suffer loss—true loss—on the inside and bear it privately. Today, I make an exception for a (relatively) long-time companion. A battle buddy. A steadfast confidant who has kept my secrets, listened to my stories, sang my favorite melodies, and held my memories. Today, I bid goodbye to my friend and fellow workhorse of nearly seven years, To-stache-iba. My laptop.
To-stache-iba came into my life as a gift from my spouse in 2012, shortly after I began work on my Master’s degree. He picked it up at a Black Friday sale. He knew it would meet the standards I required for rigorous research, online course meetings, tons of writing, and long hours of reading.
I remember the day he presented it to me. Gatey, my current laptop at the time—a dinosaur of a machine from Gateway running, I believe, Windows XP—was old and weak, and failing to live up to its duties and expectations. Yet, I was hesitant to accept To-stache-iba, because Gatey still worked. To a degree.
To-stache-iba sat in a box for several weeks. I refused to betray Gatey. It was my first laptop after all, and I am nothing if not loyal. But then, Gatey began to betray me with constant crashes and restarts, and often while I was in the middle of a school paper that hadn’t yet been saved. I could no longer look past its faults and failures. So, I unpacked the new laptop, fired it up, and spent the next several hours playing the free version of Plants vs. Zombies that came with it. I haven’t looked back since.
Humans know the average lifespan of a computer is short. Ten to fifteen years if you’re lucky. Maybe three years if you’re not. If our computers don’t die due to mechanical failure, they fall to general obsolescence. When To-stache-iba was only two-and-a-half years old, my temp employer at the time—a man who worked from his garage/home office—offered to let me use one of his sleek, new laptops so I wouldn’t have to “lug in” mine every day. Lug in, as if I needed to wheel it around everywhere on a dolly. As if it was already a comparative dinosaur.
I despise waste and the “disposable” mentality, so I try to hold on to items as long as possible, especially if they still have life and use left in them. I mend holes in the fingertips of my gloves. I rinse and re-use sandwich bags and aluminum foil. I’ve had the same cell phone for three years and hope to have it for three more, though I know that’s not likely. When To-stache-iba began to show its age a year ago, I refused to part with it.
At first, it was just the charging port. It was loose inside the machine, which required that I plug the cord into the port a certain way to charge the battery. This is a common issue with charging ports and headphone jacks on most electronics that tend to be plugged/unplugged repetitively. I consulted with a computer repair shop, and they said it was possible to fix the jack with some solder, though not likely. I elected not to go through the trouble at the time, because I didn’t have a spare laptop on which to do my work while it was in the shop. Besides, the battery kept my laptop powered and working until I was able to charge it again. That’s the point of a laptop battery, anyway—to allow us to unhook from the electric umbilical.
Then the battery started to fail. To-stache-iba warned me, via pop-up messages, that it was experiencing critical issues with maintaining a charge. At first, I ignored the messages, because I could always find an outlet nearby. The time it required between full charges decreased steadily until it needed to be charged every 30 minutes or so, and then, constantly. And then, it wouldn’t hold a charge at all.
I bought a new battery for it, thinking that would solve the problem. It did not. The new battery wouldn’t charge, either, meaning the connections inside were screwed. To-stache-iba was no longer mobile and required a constant tap into the electric grid. And remember, the cord had to be inserted in just the right way to deliver a charge. One jiggle, and To-stache-iba shut down. Authorus Interuptus. Still, I refused to move on.
A year earlier, Microsoft tried to force a Window 8 upgrade onto To-stache-iba, with an option to revert back if I hated it. I did, so I did. Windows 7 worked fine for my purposes, and I was accustomed to it. It was familiar and comfortable, two aspects that tend to impede progress. This last September, Microsoft announced they were ending active support, to include security patches, for Windows 7. That was the final nail in the coffin.
If I were sentimental, I might feel guilty about using To-stache-iba to search for a new laptop. It seems a bit like using your spouse’s iPhone to search for dates on Ashley Madison. Luckily, I am not burdened with such misplaced emotions. On Cyber Monday, I found and purchased my next laptop: a Lenovo Thinkpad T480, rated as one of the best laptops for writers. And reader, let me tell you, so far this baby is glorious. It feels like a feather compared to To-stache-iba. The keyboard has a great feel. It boasts a more reliable solid-state drive (SSD). And when fully charged, its battery lasts forever. I am now in writer’s heaven.
Still, I feel somewhat saddened to say goodbye to To-stache-iba. Afterall, it carried me through my graduate program. It provided a place to store and organize my family photos—my most prized possessions (I may have lied when I said I wasn’t sentimental . . .) It served as my inaugural writing device when I decided to pursue my long-time passion. It collaborated with me on my first full novel. It bears the sticker battle scars of my 2017 $25 for 25 campaign. And, it introduced me to Plants vs. Zombies.
Time stands still for no one, however, and we must move on past losses. To-stache-iba and I spent a few last loving days together, as I transferred all the files to my back-up external drive, and then to my back-up drives to the back-up external drive. It only unexpectedly died once during the process. Well, maybe twice. I cursed it for old times’ sake. And then, this past Wednesday, late at night when it was just the two of us, I ran Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN) program on it. By the time I woke the next morning, the To-stache-iba I knew was gone. Its corpse now sits on my dining room table, waiting to be recycled.
As with Gatey, I don’t expect to look back once To-stache-iba is gone. I will only look forward, as I already do to all the potential stories, blog posts, and novels that the Lenovo and I will create together. In time, I shall also grant it a name, and it will become as cherished and indispensable to me as what’s-its-name was.