Alright, what’s the worst thing that can happen to someone who is habitually attached to their computer every day?
Take away their computer and find out.
Some years back, yours truly went through the traumatic experience of having the hard disk drive on his laptop computer crash.
It was a Friday morning; I sat down in front of my computer, turned on the monitor, and hit the return key, which I normally do to get the computer’s attention.
This time nothing happened.
“What’s going on with my computer?” I shouted.
“Well, what did you expect?” My oldest son tersely 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 rarely turned off power to the computer itself. It was always on.
I had lulled myself into a false sense of security, thinking my computer was invulnerable, as long as the fans inside of it kept the components cooled.
On the bright side, I had made backups of my photos and word documents; the not-so-bright side is the backups were made six months ago, and did not include the most recent additions.
I ended up taking the laptop to a popular computer store, where the technician performed a diagnostic check.
It was confirmed. The computer’s hard drive was damaged beyond repair, and needed to be replaced.
I shook my head, and thought about the files on the hard drive, and then recalled those haunting words, “Well, what did you expect? You’ve left it turned on for the last two years.”
The computer tech told me the hard drive may have been damaged from an electrical spike, or it just wore out from the constant spinning of the drive’s platters.
I had come to believe it was best for a computer to be left on most of the time, than it would be having its power being repeatedly turned off and on.
There was hope.
The files I had not backed up may be retrievable using a “hard disk file recovery” diagnostic program.
They would run the recovery program, and contact me with the results.
There was nothing else for me to do there, so I drove back home to wait for their call.
As the weekend approached, I realized I might be facing it without my computer.
I was now “de-computerized” and going through severe “where’s my computer and Internet?” withdrawal symptoms.
There I was, sitting at my desk dumbfounded, staring at the spot where my computer should be.
Instead, I saw a few scattered USB cables, a dusty printer, an unplugged display screen, a mouse, and a wireless keyboard silently staring back at me.
Your humble columnist was lost without his computer.
I gazed out the window of my apartment and noticed the green leaves of some maple trees swaying in a gentle breeze against a blue sky.
A few 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.
A sense of serenity, calmness, and even a wave of contentment replaced the anxiety I was feeling.
“Gosh, this is kind of peaceful,” I thought.
In this moment of tranquil solitude and momentary self-awareness, I admitted to myself that I was spending too much time on the computer.
I was browsing through never-ending web sites, and watching too many YouTube videos.
So, instead of brooding about it, I decided to go for a walk outside.
Stopping at a local coffee establishment, I conversed with the barista as she poured some Columbian French roast coffee into a cup.
Sitting down at a table, I could not help but notice the young folks seated at other tables, staring at their laptop computer screens, while hurriedly typing.
I reached for the newspaper (yes, printed paper media) and flipped through several pages, while occasionally looking out the window onto the patio where other folks were immersed with their computers.
Returning home, I sat down at the desk.
Taking pen and paper, I wrote some words regarding “life without my computer.”
“This might make an interesting column,” I mused.
This story ends with the installation of a new 160GB hard disk drive to replace the damaged one in my laptop.
The operating system and other software programs were successfully re-loaded with no problems.
More good news: the tech geeks at the computer store were able to recover the files I had not backed up from the damaged hard drive.
The lessons learned here is we need to back up our files, use the computer’s sleep and hibernate modes, and properly shut down the computer when not using it for a lengthy period.
Having just finished writing this column, it seems to me to be a good time to step away from the computer, and go outside for a relaxing walk.
This column originally appeared June 23, 2008, and includes recent modifications by the writer.