Dust to dust


Over the weekend, AWACS died.

AWACS was my first “PC” (as opposed to the Macs and Atari’s I used before), and the first and last computer I ever built from parts.

I bought it as a set of parts from Overseas Computing, perhaps the shadiest, but certainly the least friendly computer equipment retailer ever.

Sure enough, when I got home, it didn’t work. I read the manual and tried a few jumper settings, then spent the rest of the night staring at the dead box.

When I took it back the next day, the store clerk replaced what turned out to be a broken power supply. Instead of an apology, he gave me a reprimand. “You shouldn’t be doing this if you haven’t done it before!” I still remember this because it struck me as illogical and frankly indefensible at the time, a shining example of everything that is wrong with people in particular and the whole world in general.

But he may have been right in a sense.

I bought a dual Pentium II motherboard. It could seat two Pentium II processors, which was quite advanced at the time. But the processors were quite expensive, so I got just one. The idea was to get another processor when I had more money. Of course that never happened. By the time I was able to buy a second processor, that specific model had become antiquated and possibly even more expensive. It’s best to never think ahead when it comes to technology.

I ended up spending a lot more money, buying a new motherboard and two new Pentium III CPUs in Slot 1 packaging , big heavy slabs of silicon and plastic. The old motherboard I gave to an old friend, someone I first met through the dial-up BBS “Archie” run by the VPRO in the late eighties/early nineties.

AWACS was the last computer my father gave to me. Now after more than a decade of uninterrupted service the plastics have become yellow and brittle and the efficient whirr-click of the drives has turned into a laborious whine. The optical drives died a long time ago.

And this weekend, one of the hard drives died. After some gentle prodding I managed to bring it back to life, sort of. Then I went out and bought a new machine – just the first thing that seemed decent and wasn’t too expensive.

I copied across a decade worth of files, rebooted, and logged in. Everything was there, like nothing ever happened. Machines have no sense of ceremony.

I’ve called the new machine Ripley – after the greatest female character in film ever.