“Well, friend, you’re going back where you came from, the curb in front of Flanders’ house.” – Homer Simpson
I am typing this on an unfamiliar keyboard. My preferred instrument, the one I have been using for the last nine years and which produced probably close to 90% of all the words that have ever appeared on this site, is part of a laptop that, despite my sincerest efforts to repair it, has processed its last. My beloved, blue Inspiron 5100 is now awaiting shipment back to Dell, where it will be disassembled and have its constituent parts and materials either sent to a landfill or recycled into new things. It is a process I couldn’t bear to watch, and I’m glad it will take place far away from me at a time I will never know.
Going all the way back to the Apple II we had in the basement when I was a small child, the 5100 (naturally named “Charlene”) was the best computer I have ever owned, and one of the most durable and reliable pieces of electronics of any kind that I have ever seen. It had its quirks and problems, but they were always minor and I had recently managed to install a solid state drive. Just a week ago it was running better than it ever had, booting to Windows in just fifteen seconds and flying through everything from photoshop and mundane office tasks to writing this blog and letting me watch my favorite Simpsons episodes wherever and whenever.
It seemed set to continue working indefinitely. My goal was to get it to and past its tenth birthday, but it fell thirteen months shy when, last Thursday, somewhere in that cracked and worn but still very sturdy case, some small component of the RAM sockets, almost certainly invisible to the naked eye, failed after years of uninterrupted success. It’d had several near death experiences in the past, and was held together these last years by luck, love, about two thirds of the original screws, and a Lego piece that was hot glued to the inside to keep the headphone jack working. So over the last few days I tried mightily to revive it: testing different configurations, rebooting over and over, even paying for the rush shipping on the new chips I hoped would bring it back from the dead one more time. But the inescapable conclusion now is that there is nothing to be done.
On some level it is obscene to mourn over an inanimate object, something that for all the smiles and frowns it could cause was nothing more than a tool for reading lines of code, sorting ones from zeros. But while it was just a tool, it was an exceptional one, a tool that never once held back its user. So while it may not make sense or be in good taste to mourn it, the greater obscenity would be to let such a fine thing roll away unremembered. Among many other deeds great and small, it was instrumental in building this site, and it deserves commemoration here.
Like any tool, it can and will be replaced; but unlike all but the very best, it will always be missed. So long, old friend.