The Little Laptop That Could

Do you know what the first rule of computing is?

Well, I’ll tell you.

First, though, this is Bacchus. Internet, meet Bacchus. Bacchus, Internet.


Look at all that fanfare! He must be awesome! (You can’t really see much of him, but oh well. I like this picture.)

He’s the middle child of my three babies — younger than my crusty old desktop, Saul, but older than baby Ophelia, our shiny new netbook. These days, Bacchus is the one who gets the most use, what with college life demanding something portable to lug around campus most days (and Ophelia is strictly for writing (I don’t even have her wireless configured — that way I won’t be distracted by the internet when I need to sit down and write)).

Bacchus and I have been through a lot together. The stickers each tell a story; so do the scratches and dings all over, and the strips of icky gluey adhesive stuff stuck on his underside. He’s been dropped on his head and thrown around carelessly. Sometimes his screen goes totally dead and I have to wait until he feels better. The touch pad is finicky and getting worse. More than a few times, he’s refused to turn on when I asked him to, only to decide later that he feels like working again. One of those times, he’d been outside in the freezing cold for ages and I immediately tried to turn him on when we got inside. Stupid — and I thought that was the end right there. Condensation plus electricity probably blew something up, I figured.

But he got better. He gets better every time.

So, do you know what the first rule of computing is?

It’s love.

You can learn all the math in the ‘verse, but if you take a boat in the air that you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as the turnin’ of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down. Tells you she’s hurtin’ ‘fore she keels. Makes her a home.

I love my computers, plain and simple — and it’s because they’re my home. Homes. If you want to know what keeps a computer running, that’s it. Everyone I’ve known who looks at a computer like it’s just a machine — something to use when it’s running right and to throw out when it’s not — those people are always telling me about their catastrophic computer problems, or the latest rig to kick the bucket before its time. If a computer is just a tool to you, it’ll break like a tool.

I’m not a superstitious person, but I talk to my computers sometimes. (Yeah, really.) I give them a pat on the back when they look down, and praise them when they’re taking names. I watch for the little signs: the glitches, the hiccups, the odd tics. They’ll always try to tell you they’re hurting before they give up the ghost. And if you know what to look for, if you care enough to care, you can keep them happy. Go out of your way for your computer and it’ll go out of its way for you. Love it and it’ll love you back. A happy computer is a happy user. It’s a two-way street.

Last week, Bacchus literally went up in a puff of smoke. Shut down out of nowhere, coughed out a acrid cloud from the vent in the back. The smell of fried electronics.

Maybe I missed the signs. Maybe he tried to let me know something was wrong and I was too distracted. I’ve been distracted lately. Maybe he knew I was having a rough week and he didn’t want to trouble me.

It takes a second, the smoke rising lazily in front of your eyes. The library is totally still; the throngs of students gone utterly silent. Then it hits you — how much a part of your life this computer has been, how many papers you’ve written on it, how many friendships you’ve made through it, how much you’ve loved the big mess of circuit boards and capacitors. And it’s gone.

But it wasn’t. It’s not.

What if it’s like that time I pulled him out of the cold? Maybe he’ll get better.

You give him a half hour and try the power button again. White light, orange light, blue light; login screen. We’re ready to roll, boss. Just say the word.

Because sometimes they do get better.

We still haven’t figured out what happened, but for now, Bacchus is back. Was it love that kept him around? I’d like to think so. And if nothing else, the brush with death has at least reminded me to cherish every moment we have left — because they’ll never come again.


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