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As anyone who follows my Twitter feed will have just giggled at, I felt a very real pang of sadness a few minutes ago.  It remains as I type this.  Earlier today, my trusty old PC started chugging along, freezing and generally playing up.  AVG found no viruses.  I cleaned out a bit of hard drive space.  Idly checking my free space, I noticed it had gone down by about 500mb.  Odd.  I checked again in a while. Another 500mb.  By lunch time, my hard drive had lost over 2GB of space.  The PC had spluttered, crashed and frozen to the point of having to restart on six separate occasions in the meantime.  I got a blue screen of death.  Then I panicked, and backed everything up onto a memory stick as quickly as possible.

Looks suspiciously like the hard drive has failed.  Ordinarily, I’d fork out for a new one, fit it, and carry on as normal.  I’ve done that before.  But this time is different.  This time, it’s only a few weeks until my good old home computer is to be replaced.  This time, there will be no repairs.  And so, with that absolutely genuine sadness, a few minutes ago I shut down my PC for the final time.

She really has served me well, and I use that personification without the slightest hint of irony.  There’s something about the death of a PC that feels different to that of, say, a 360 RRODing.  I built my PC (well, I didn’t, but I had it custom built) and updated her almost annually for the duration of her life.  She was a little over five years old.  In that time, she had two new video cards, a new processor, truckload of extra RAM and a new DVD drive.  Just over a year ago, she went under the knife for dangerous surgery, and barely escaped the reformat alive.  She tried her best to keep struggling on, but bless her, her time has come.

I’ve backed up the essentials – my work, girlfriend’s work, Post Script and various other bits and bats.  But the things I’ll miss are the incidentals.  The heaps of trash on the desktop.  The cluttered My Documents folder, filled with odd files I’m not quite sure about and can’t remember ever creating or downloading.  My gorgeous Machinarium desktop wallpaper, which I suspect is the first thing I’ll download when I get my new machine after Christmas.  The way Skype auto-logs-in every time I launch the machine because I always forget to disable it.  All the little quirks.  Things I always moan about.  But I’ll miss them.

A new PC feels sterile and cold.  There’s no ‘new car smell’.  When you spend as much time on your computer as I do, switching machines is more like moving house.  You get your swanky new pad, but when you first walk in, it’s empty, bare, and not at all homely.  You have to make it your own again.  In this case, I’m not just moving boxes across from one home to the next.  The house burnt down, and I only had time to save the most important things.  The house is gone.  I have to move on to a new one, with what meagre salvage I managed to grab.

I remember first buying this PC, a week or so before the release of Half-Life 2.  It was a fantastic time – a top of the range new machine for a top of the range new gaming experience.  I commented recently that Half-Life 2 now feels ancient, and I suppose that should have been a sign.  A five year old PC is well into the winter of its life.  It was my PC’s time to go.

Writing this on my laptop, I noticed my PC’s DVD drive was open.  It had a tendency to do that for the past year or so, for no discernable reason, making installing games a nightmare.

I just pushed the drive in.  She can rest now.

3 responses »

  1. If I was drinking a cup of tea, I’d be raising my mug in quiet contemplation right now.

    I’ve upgraded my PC countless times and whilst I fear there is nothing left of the original machine my parents bought back in 1998, there’s still the odd thing here or there that’s lasted. My DVD drive, for example, has been with me since 2003, warts and all (it can’t write DVDs and, as far as I can tell, whether it’ll even open or not depends upon the phase of the moon).

    But hey, it’s in a better place now.

    Wait, what do you mean “there’s no such thing as silicon heaven”, where do all the calculators go?

  2. I think we should have a ceremony. Like, maybe bury the hard disk or burn the motherboard in a viking style funeral.

  3. My condolences. When I was younger, my mother dropped my laptop – only an inch off the carpet – but that was all it took for it to go to a black static screen every time any video or gaming screens came up on the display.

    It was the laptop I wrote on, the laptop I experienced Grim Fandango on, and it died. It was devastating, but I slowly moved on.

    Now, I’ve had this laptop just over a year, and sufficient to say it does what I want it to, but I fantasise about building a supercomputer once I’ve got the space, naming it the Obelisk, and updating it the way all my friends did their PCs while I flitted between laptops and iMacs.

    Again, my condolences.


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