Tag Archives: computers

Eventually, everything breaks

An old friend of mine used to always tell me that computer hard drives have a 100% failure rate. I’m not sure if it was originally his or not, but he was fond of saying it whenever we talked about computers. Initially, I had a hard time wrapping my brain around that—“but I just bought this hard drive, how can you tell me that there is a 100% chance it will fail.”

To date, he’s been absolutely correct. For computers, I just move my information from the old one to the next and keep going.

But I’m finding that there are a lot of other things that possibly fall into that category, particularly anything that uses electricity.

I missed blogging last week because we loaded up a 26foot Uhaul and then spent 2 days driving 750 miles with it packed so tight I was sticking things in with a half-open (or was it half-closed?) door. Then I had to put it all directly into a storage because we still have no place to move to yet.

But the point is that BJ and I had this lamp that I’d wanted for some time before we actually got it. It was my favorite. Those of you more astute writers have picked up on the past tense. The lamp wasn’t fancy, nor was it really that expensive. When we got our sectional sofa (eighteen years ago), I wanted one of those cool lamps that spread out into five different pieces so it would light up every spot on the sofa—I could read anywhere I sat. So we got it—and I loved the lamp.

The sofa is now gone, too. We decided a few months back that after eighteen years, the sofa would not be making the trip to Florida with us.

The lamp DID, though.

After I put everything in storage…tired as all get out, I put the lamp in the back of my truck to take it to our tiny apartment (it’s a one room and VERY temporary) so that I could continue to use it.

When we pulled up at the apartment the kids grabbed armfuls of stuff and headed in because we were all tired. When I went to take the lamp out, I saw the base had a piece broken off. When I actually picked it up to take it out of the truck, the base just…crumbled. Crumbled into so many pieces. I didn’t realize it until it broke that it was a concrete block base wrapped in some thick plastic/rubber material.

There was nothing to do but toss the entire thing.

I guess that’s why the really “old” things go in museums.


Filed under Columns

Technology ever changing (us)

Sometimes it’s tough to make the switchover to technology. When I first started writing, I handwrote everyone on looseleaf notebook paper. In junior high, I even drew my comics on lined notebook paper, some of the pages ripped right out of a spiral binder. In senior high, I learned to use the typewriter, but we didn’t have an electric one at home like the school had—we had an old manual typewriter and those things were hard to use!

As a senior, however, I got a Commodore 64 and learned the ways of word processing. Actually, I got it because I thought I’d need it in college (I did) and it was either that or an electric typewriter. Back then, the hot thing was electric typewriters with “memory.” Ha

I used a dot matrix printer with my C-64 and printed everything out. I had files and files and files of stuff.


See that’s part of the problem with ever increasing technology, it becomes incompatible with the old technology. So I’ve got stacks of short stories and some comic scripts on paper only. I mean, it’d take time to RETYPE them JUST to have them on my computer. (Once after an upgrade, my Mom graciously typed several of my stories in for me. I’m her favorite son!)

Dad always laughs at how his parents used to struggle with the VCR. Now, he laughs at himself as he watches Angie and I rearrange his computer settings and watches Brittany teach my Mom things about the cellphone…a phone which Brittany has only had since Christmas!

But I often wonder what I should do with the stacks and stacks of paper I have. It would sure save me some filing cabinet space if I could find a way to get rid of it. Admittedly, much of it I hold on to for sentimental reasons. Some of it I hold on to it pack-rat-style thinking “Oh! I’ll use this idea some day in a story. I’d better keep it!”

I organize my computer files in much the same way I organize my paper files, though. I have one “big” writing folder…then in that folder are several sub-folders of the different kinds of writing I do. I even have one labeled “ideas and such.” I’ve tried to go through my hand-written “idea” folder and put them all in my computer folder, but for some reason it just isn’t the same opening all the idea files as it is flipping through a folder full of post-its, ripped pages, and napkins with ideas written on them.

Makes me wonder what sort of technology my kids will be laughing at me and BJ about?


Filed under Columns, writing

Shoot your old computers

I’m a big computer nut. I’ve had one (or more) since around 1982 when I first got a Commodore 64. I was never able to afford the newer 128 (really, what I mean is that I could never talk Mom and Dad into getting one for me).

I had the C64 when I was a senior in high school and actually did some of my first writing on that machine. Granted, I probably logged more hours playing games on the machine than writing, but the games of the time were very limited.

There was a War Between the States game (that would be Civil War to those above the Mason-Dixon line) that kept me occupied for hours. If you’ve ever seen an old battle map from the time, you’d see that the units are represented with line rectangles and then arrows show the direction of movement. That’s what this game did. Ah, if we could but re-fight that war.

But I digress.

When I got to college, the computer lab was filled with the Tandy machines and I was immediately enamored. I’d seen them at Radio Shack and knew what they could do. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford one and so my C64 followed me everywhere, even through graduation. I’m not complaining about the C64, it was a very loyal computer—I wrote many term papers, comic books and short stories on it.

But by the time graduation came around, personal computers were beginning to really work into mainstream America. Since my chosen profession was writing, I did some research and found that most respectable publishers were using Apples.

So I bought a used MacIntosh—a Mac Classic—from a publisher to whom I had sold several stories. It was to their benefit also—they wanted me to start sending in my stories on disk, rather than page after page of dot-matrix printed paper. It worked out incredibly well for me—it was a lot cheaper to send a floppy disk than to send a stack of paper.

After a few years of writing on that Mac, I upgraded to an LCII, still a Mac, but a bigger hard drive and a faster computer. It was a good thing, because after about a year, the old Mac wasn’t worth anything but a doorstop.

It was around this time, too, that I noticed a growing competition between PCs and Macs. This was PCs before Windoze. Still, nearly everyone in the entertainment industry—in which I was working—used Macs. But Chris Ulm, the editor in chief at Malibu Entertainment, told me that the PCs had some cool games, games you couldn’t get on a Mac.

So I went and bought a PC for the sole purpose of playing games.

I discovered he was right.

Macs still seemed to be the more powerful machines when it came to graphics (film industry uses Macs, also), but the game makers didn’t make Mac versions. It was at this point we became a two computer household.

A few years later, my Mac was once again outdated and I upgraded. A couple of years after that, my PC was outdated (ie., the new games didn’t work on it) and so I upgraded. Just after that, I discovered Brittany was actually pretty adept at using at computer, so I bought a used one for her. Not long after that, BJ decided she needed one at home, so we got her a PC (her office was exclusively PC and she wanted to be compatible with her office). Then Brett came along and we decided he wasn’t too young to get him started on one.

So, in the span of just barely twenty years, I’ve gone through at least six computers. That’s an average of a little over three years per computer.

I once had a computer geek friend of mine tell me that hard drives have a 100% failure rate. It took me a while to digest that before realizing he was right.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that computer years must be like dog years…sometimes we even have to shoot them when they get old.

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Filed under Columns, writing