25 July 2011

Hertz schmertz

So I haven't blogged in a few weeks and this is where I give a lame excuse like my computer died. Except in my case, my computer died: the screen developed a dead stripe about 2 inches wide, slightly right of center. Googling (on my iPod) seemed to confirm that the LCD had become disconnected and would need replacing, which was probably more than the machine was worth, and so time for a new one.

I had been planning on getting a new Mac for some time; in spite of my reputation amongst friends and family as the guy who knows a lot about computers, I'd been nursing along an obsolete machine for many years now, running an operating system that was two generations gone. So I should have welcomed the death of my old box and skipped to the store with plastic in hand. Instead, I found myself begrudging the purchase; when I brought the bulky box home I felt a strange lack of enthusiasm.

There was a time when a new computer was a big deal, a life event, a first kiss. I remember my wife and I purchasing our first Mac (a Classic II) back in graduate school; I believe with an academic discount and a newly-introduced inkjet printer it cost us about $2K. We brought it home like nervous parents who feared crib death. It was hard to believe we had anything that valuable in our apartment. For the next five years we wrote every one of our grad school papers on that nine-inch black and white screen and dipped our toes into the exciting new world of Compuserv with our blisteringly fast 28.8K modem.

We've run through a lot of computers since then, and while each has been faster and prettier, acquiring them is less and less glamourous. As technology becomes more advanced, I care about it less and less. There was a time that I could rattle off the hertz for any of a dozen CPUs. I can't begin to tell you any specs for my shiny new iMac. Is it dual core or quad core? For that matter, what's a core?

Maybe it's better for me to not care so much about this stuff. In the end, tech lust is more materialism, and maybe letting go of that is another step towards enlightenment. Maybe what's good is the ubiquity of computers and smart devices means I'm not interested in the tools but what I can do with them. But to be honest, I miss the obsession.


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