Both of my computers are old. My desktop computer, Dora, will turn five and a half in November. Yoshi the Laptop will be four in December. They’ve seen me through papers and novels and scripts and discovering the open source and startup communities and the coolness of Internet cultures. When I got them, they were great computers and top-of-the-line machines that zipped through every command I gave them, and I run lots of programs at once. I run music, Pidgin, a web browser, and more often than not something to type on in the background. That’s just the standard combination. If I’m cropping pictures, I’ll have the GIMP open. If I’m Skyping, then Skype will be open.
Now they’re starting to show their age. I bought them with Windows XP on it, the operating system that looked to last nearly as long as Internet Explorer 6. Thankfully it didn’t last that long, but when you consider that Windows 7 is out now, the age of these machines starts to show a little. I know neither computer could handle Windows 7 even if I wanted them to. I look at the requirements for some programs now out of sheer curiosity and see that my computers could be phased out in the near future. Pumping more life into my desktop should be as simple as buying more RAM. The laptop may be a little more difficult as far as taking the thing apart, but I can figure something else out.
I’ve found another easy to put more life into these old machines: Linux. I’ve been using Linux on my desktop since last December, which has also put a lot of life back into this computer. The keyboard is about to go, though; there are visible holes in the S, N, and M keys. I’m still deciding on a distro for the laptop, but I do need to keep a Windows installation around just because there are some things that are only designed to be Windows-friendly. Brassring job boards and Flash, I’m looking at you.
There’s a certain pride in using computers this old. I’ve heard so many stories of computers dying a sad death after just a couple of years. The worst cases are the computer owners who don’t back up their work and who were working on something like NaNoWriMo; this happens to someone every year. When people tell these stories and we start comparing machine stats, my computers and their stats become irrelevant because it’s so old. It has become a mark of pride, even if only part of it is within my control, and their death will mark the loss of that pride.
Whatever happens, I know that one day the inevitable will happen: even my computers will fall one day. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have two computers last this long. Since my luck can’t last forever, I’ve started casually looking at replacements. Even though I can’t afford a new one now, one day I’ll be in a position to need and want one. Suddenly all the talk of which laptop is the best that I’ve been scrolling past for the life of these computers out of lack of need will finally come in handy. Whether that day is next month, next year, or five years from now, I’ll be ready for that day, and I’ll live with the knowledge that Dora and Yoshi will have lived long lives, even if they never did pass a Turing test.