Quest Updated: Obsolescence
The sinking feeling is not one I’d like to experience again. The long, long, long screen of infinite blackness; not even a cursor blinking hopefully at me. And then, the error message. Again. As always. Not like an I/O hard-drive error can magically go away by trying again, but I’m hoping that the owl bearing my invitation to Hogwarts was hit by a plane or something and my latent powers will manifest now. Or now. Or now.
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As is now clear, my laptop has kicked the bucket. Yes, I can replace the dead hard-drive, I can replace the faulty battery that is less effective than a potato battery, I can tune up, fix, reformat, replace, repair ad nauseum. But nothing can change the fact that its about a year or two overdue for a replacement anyway. And this is something that actually bothers me a lot.
Now, the old machine was never flawless. I used to call it the Death Star: it was big and impressive, but had a fatal flaw with the thermal exhaust ports. Just thinking about a circa 2009 game could get it to overheat on anything above the lowest possible settings. Even an external cooling fan couldn’t really help the old, lame horse amble around the racetrack.
Wait a minute; that isn’t quite true. On the whole, it was a decent machine for a laptop. Trekking halfway across a country that is much larger than it seems in your imagination is enough to discourage one from buying a desktop. Spending half a year in Grahamstown, a quarter in Gauteng and a quarter in KZN means a desktop computer just ins’t that practical. I’m waaaay too much of a student to be able to afford a latest-gen console. Heck, I can’t even afford a PS3 or X-Box 360, never mind the 79 000 pricetag (Exaggerate? Me?) for the coming consoles. And I’m sure I can’t dictate an essay to Kinect, and even if I could, it would probably attempt to auto-correct my reference list. The thing is, laptops just made more sense for my situation, and provided me with an amazing outlet. I read pretty much solidly for work, until I stop reading and start writing things. I might well be turning into a book. And faced with only local TV networks, I’d take any gaming as my leisure activity.
It bothers me that my laptop both was outstripped and started to fall apart so quickly. Call me crazy, but I don’t think a laptop 4 years old is that unrealistic to expect? If my PS2 is still running fine, and my old PS1 probably still could fire up Digimon World 1 without fuss, why is my laptop any different? And I don’t think it is something I’m alone in facing. In fact, I don’t know of any of my friends with laptops who aren’t doing the electronic equivalent of bailing water from a leaky boat with their hats. I know Moore’s Law is fighting me here – of course my hardware is going to go out of date. And when you’re not buying top of the range, you give Moore the head start.
Maybe I’m just ineffectually beating my wings in a vacuum here, but I honestly feel a bit ripped off. I know I’ve picked a relatively middle-class way of having fun, and I have to accept gaming comes with one of the biggest entertainment industry price-tags. But I still feel a little bit put out. It’s a larger analogue to the frustration that in the decades of personal computer development, we have yet to invent a printer that fucking works. All printers worked once. It’s their default setting: worked once. Not “works now”, or “works mostly”. I feel like that, for the amount of cash that goes out on these technologies, we should be doing better?
Maybe I’ll just stop complaining and… err… watch… read… sit quietly?