THE BLOG
10/24/2014 07:21 am ET Updated Dec 24, 2014

Computers -- Starting Over

My computer is dying. It is sluggish while searching, switching between programs and completing tasks. Sometimes, it experiences a Parkinsonian-like freeze and we sit there staring at each other while waiting in silence for the uncomfortable episode to pass. Often, when I make a request, the little wheel spins and spins as if trying to remember what to do.

I sent the ailing computer out for diagnostic testing, and the reports were not unexpected. There is nothing essentially wrong, the technician summarized. It's just old and unable to keep up with the new, modern technologies. I know exactly how it feels.

Much as I resent having to learn a new system, I know what I have to do. I'll need to replace the computer. But what should I buy? It's a daunting question. Computers have changed so much in the last eight years. I will have to re-educate myself before I can even consider tossing the old and welcoming the new.

I consulted the experts. I went to the Apple store and was dazzled by all the white machines. This one digitally mixes music. That one can manipulate photographs with the ease of spin art. All I need, I explained to the man with the Secret Service style ear-piece, is word processing and Internet. For some reason, he felt it was important that I first understand the differences between gigabytes and terabytes. He didn't even notice when my eyes lost focus and my face slid to blank which was surprising given the megawatts of florescent lighting that torched us from above. I left with a buzzing sensation in my head, like you have for days after attending a rock concert.

At Best Buy I met a young man who tried to introduce me to the concept of customization. You can create, it turns out, any computer you want by selecting each part separately. Did I want the VESA mount? What about the intelligent cooling engine? That one sounded important. When we moved on to the operating systems, well, that's where the sales associate really got excited. I swear, spittle accumulated in the corners of his mouth as he explained the Windows 7 Professional 64 preinstalled through downgrade rights...something, something, something...in Windows 8. I didn't have the heart to tell him he'd lost me at the first Windows.

I asked my children, my nephews and nieces, and the neighbor next door who'd joined me in the elevator one day with a coaxial cable hanging out of a shopping bag. My father was a computer whiz, and I was getting desperate so I asked him for help. He died last year, and the photograph of him that I keep on my desk had nothing to offer with regard to my quest.

Back at my desk, the little wheel went round and round, waiting for my decision. So I picked up the phone and called the closest computer store. I ordered a perfectly good computer, a distant offspring of the one I've had for eight satisfying years. I used my credit card points to offset some of the cost, and asked about the shipping. Good news, the saleswoman said. Through the end of the month, shipping is free.

Good news indeed.

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