Wednesday, approx. 5:20 PM local time, seated on the couch with my Poor Wife at my side and Mr. Stinky on my lap on the usual grounds that he'd be the first to know when I got up, possibly resulting in food, even though he should know (and in fact does) that he won't get fed again until 8. Larry was presumably in the basement due to the thunderstorm activity event the weather hairdo had just finished showing us and describing as "remarkably narrow"--something I, with over 50 years weather experience, scoffed at, seeing as how the thing was at least a county wide for much of its hundred-mile length, which seems more like "average" and certainly not "remarkable". It was about two minutes later when I heard the most intense thunderclap I've ever heard in my life (though neither the loudest nor the most impressive), followed (if that word may be used to distinguish the Speed of Sound from the only fractionally slower Speed of Cat startled by thunder) by the fortuitously freshly claw-clipped Mr. Stinky departing the general region of my gonads in a Big Goddam Hurry. At roughly the same moment my Poor Wife was launched a good foot in the air, bounced twice, and locked me in a death grip on landing.
Oh, do not get ahead of me, young tech-savvy interneteers--a few hours passed before I entered my office to find the expected throbbing orange sleep-indicator light in fully flaccid, necessitating a flexing of my UNIX muscles (the sum total of which being the fsck -y command) a reboot, and a quick if hopelessly-last-century dial-up connection to check email with an eye toward cutting Mitch Daniels down to size thereafter (oh, wait...). Instead, a "Modem not responding please check your connection and settings" alert. It is never anything to do with the settings. Once in a while it might be the connection. Still, I check both, because the sign told me to, then I turn on the sound and try to reconnect, and there's no dial tone. So I went over to the kitchen phone and picked it up and heard...a dial tone. Shit.
I went upstairs to my wife's office. Her computer is on a different phone line, but it's the same story. I plugged a phone into that line and dialed our home number and heard the bedroom phone ring. We're fucked.
Of course, this is entirely my fault because I'm what passes for the geek around here. For the first decade or so of computer ownership I dutifully ran around unplugging everything anytime a storm was coming, but I've become complacent. The current surge protectors must be seven years old, and the phone lines weren't plugged into them.
But here is where we exit the reminder to brush your teeth, wash your hands, and keep your pubic region barbered and re-enter the realm of Panglossian economics, because it took only a short time to reacquaint myself with the gaping holes surrounding the total lack of substance in that whole "Aren't you glad you live in a technological wonderland?" schtick.
I'm basically a frugal fellow, but not out of any real respect for money. I'm more than willing to spend what other people would describe as exorbitantly on something I want. There are $200-$300 bottles of wine in my cellar. I buy eyeglasses at the priciest joint in town, and I can't remember when I bought a pair of shoes for under 150 bucks. But I'll tie a broken shoelace together and keep going until the shoe wears out, my non-professional wardrobe is by M. Targét, and I wash and reuse aluminum foil. It's more a reaction to incessant waste than miserliness, but there you go. I have no real intention of buying a new computer (or a car) until the old one doesn't work anymore.
But with a car you can control that somewhat--they still make tires that fit my '95 coupé, and I can still get the proper oil filter and air cleaner and parts for any of the three other mechanical things I've capable of doing myself, but nursing a computer through a decade is a bitch.
So we have six-year-old G3 Macs, my wife and I, and they do everything they've always done, and the only thing I've run into that would require an upgrade is that dual-sided DVD recording business, which means I'll get around to dual-sided DVD recording the next time I buy a new computer, unless DVDs are obsolete by then. By just try telling a repairman you've got a six-year-old machine. You'll get the same response asking him where he stocks the sleeve garters.
I decided that the best approach was to buy a single external modem and see if that solved the problem. $20-30 would beat any repair cost. So I was off to the nearest Big Box at 9 the next morning, only to have to search for fifteen minutes to even find modems (I suspected they'd be hidden somewhere in the Unloved section with the floppy drives and blank 125 MB Zip discs, and they were; I would have asked for help but the three or four knots of employees seemed to be enjoying themselves so much I hated to interfere). Then every single one of 'em is a Windows product. I had not really anticipated this problem in the second half of the USB decade, but watcha gonna do? Three more stops at three more Boxes, plus a side trip to The Apple Store, which is now apparently The iPod Store, Where Do You Think You're Going, Gramps?, with no luck. Home to the Yellow Pages, realizing all the while that this problem would be solved almost instantaneously if I had a freakin' internet connection. Search "Computers--Service and Repair" or whatever it was for little Apple symbols. The first guy I found had no address--not generally a good sign, but he was cheery, told me he had one but not two external modems in stock ("Jus' want but one," says I), but was too busy to meet me anyplace (explaining the lack of address), but he knew for a fact that Fry Electronics near me (that is, 12 miles away) had them. Off to Fry, where the employees are too busy enjoying the latest in electronic wonders to bother wondering why you're there, where I finally find the Apple modems, which read "Required: G4 computer or later." Back home, with one more futile stop in between, call Mr. Homeless Mac Repair again and tell him, nicely, that the modems at Fry weren't G3-compatible, and what did he have in stock? to which he replied, "Oh, I didn't realize you had a G3." Understandable enough, I guess, since I'd only mentioned it twice. But he was a nice guy, and he told me about a repair shop which might have the parts, and I tried them and everything worked out ducky, plus the modems were all that was damaged.
But O, Brave New Electronics Boutique! Who in hell voted for you? Is it possible that Jane Galt, et. al., have never been obsolescenced? I can't imagine they have long to wait, assuming it registers. I'm fifty-two. I remember tube testing machines in the front of drugstores, next to the stamp machine. All those 78s my grandmother gave me were already history, but it was at least a decade before I bought a turntable that wouldn't play 'em. Since then, of course, my vinyl collection has been superceded (but not replaced), most of my cassettes are in critical condition (I never owned an 8-track), and I've got a few hundred videotapes I'll probably have to be buried with just for the sake of space, but those things can mostly be used. So far as I know it's still legal, though perhaps not competitive, to play tennis with a racket smaller than Lincoln Navigator. But what in hell am I going to do with the 14 400 baud modem in the basement, let alone the 9600? Anybody need some 44MB SyQuest cartridges? A grayscale scanner?
Okay, sure, technology marches on, and I'm not trying to stand in the way. It's just that once you've spent two whole days trying to get stuff repaired and even the guy at the Used Mac store looks at you like the only explanation he can come up with is you just woke up from a coma, it's time to put the question to all those people who can't live without the latest ringtone: just how long do you imagine you'll want to keep running after this crap as it changes before your eyes? I'm glad you're enjoying the ride--it is exhilarating--but check that ticket again. You want off, you have to jump.