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My computer crashed and so did I

June 23, 2008

by Mark Ollig

What’s the worst thing that can happen to someone who is “addicted” to having their computer “fix” each day?

Take away their computer.

I recently went through the traumatic experience of having the hard disk drive on my laptop crash.

“What? This just can’t be happening to my computer!” I said out loud.

“Well, what did you expect?” My oldest son said to me. “You’ve left it turned on for the last two years.”

I hesitated in my reply as the gravity of his sentence sunk in. He was right.

Come to think about it, I would turn off the monitor screen – but I rarely turned off power to the computer itself. It was always on.

The computer was set to “hibernate” when not in use but I had disabled that . . . about two years ago.

I had lulled myself into a false sense of security, thinking my computer was invulnerable and would last forever.

On the encouraging side, I had made backups of my photos and word documents; the “unencouraging” side is the backups were made six months ago.

I took the laptop into the “computer place” and had a diagnostic check completed on it.

It was confirmed. The computer’s hard drive was damaged and needed to be replaced.

It was possible the damage occurred from a recent electrical spike, or it just wore out from spinning. The computer place was not 100 percent sure.

I began thinking about the debate of leaving your computer on all the time versus powering it down when not using it.

I had come to believe it was better for a computer to be left on most of the time than it would be having its power turned off and on.

There was hope I might retrieve some of the lost files. I asked the computer place to run a “hard disk file recovery” program.

As the weekend approached, I faced it without my laptop computer.

I was now “de-computerized” and going through severe “where’s my computer and Internet?” withdrawal symptoms.

I began to feel like the English singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse – I almost had to “go to rehab . . . but I said no, no, no.”

There I was sitting at my desk dumbfounded, staring at the spot where my computer should be.

Instead, a few scattered USB cables, a dusty printer, an unplugged external monitor, the mouse and a wireless keyboard silently stared back at me.

Your humble columnist was lost without his computer.

I gazed out my window and noticed the green leaves of some maple trees swaying in a gentle breeze against a blue sky. A few young robins could be heard softly tweeting, and I saw what my mind’s eye fashioned out to be a rabbit’s face in one of the clouds.

Then calmness and even a wave of contentment, replaced the anxiety. “Gosh, this is kind of peaceful,” I thought.

In a moment of serene solitude and momentary self-awareness, I admitted to myself that I was spending too much unnecessary time on the computer. Browsing through the never-ending web sites and watching too many YouTube videos was emotionally exhausting me.

So I went for a walk.

Stopping at my favorite local coffee establishment, I chatted with the server as she poured Columbian French Roast coffee into my cup.

As I sat down at a table, I could not help but notice the number of young people sitting alone staring at their laptop computer screens while aimlessly typing away on their keyboards.

I reached for the newspaper and flipped through the pages, occasionally looking out the window onto the patio where – you guessed it – more folks were sitting with their laptop computers.

Although no audible conversations could be heard, many were no doubt taking place “virtually” – with the participants engaged in online chats.

Upon returning home, I turned on the radio and tuned it to one of those “oldies” music stations –“K-Fossil” – as one son once called it.

Taking pen and paper, I wrote some words regarding “life without my computer.”

“This might possibly make an interesting column,” I mused.

This story ends with installing a new and larger Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE) 160GB internal HDD (hard disk drive) to replace the damaged 80GB drive my laptop computer originally came with.

Windows XP and my other software programs were re-loaded with no problems.

More good news: The technical people at the computer place were able to recover those lost files I had not backed up.

Sometimes we just need to take a break from the “rushed and hyperactive computer online world” and take a “slow and calming walk outside – in the real world.”