December 17, 2010
I have a very special relationship with my laptop computer. For going on 15 years I’ve owned one, almost since Apple began making them. I hooked up with my first at Leo Burnett, where they doled out Macbooks to the copywriters and desktops for the art directors. I still think we writers got the better deal. Back then, few of us actually knew how to use a computer and so Leo Burnett provided mandatory lessons. A saucy blond woman taught me, which, at the time, may have been the biggest motivator to take the class. Like most creative people, I loathed tutorials, even when they were for my own good. Needless to say, I’m glad as hell I went. In retrospect, I should have been first in line.
My machine quickly smote me. You have to realize how exotic these svelte devices were, coming off an IBM Selectric or whatever the hell we’d been using. The IBM machine was swell…like your mother-in-law. Believe it or not, lots of writers still hacked away on manual typewriters or gave their copy to assistants to type. Sounds like ancient history but it isn’t. I’m talking 1996.
Within a couple years we became inseparable, my laptop and I. Now it’s like we’re married, only without human frailty. She stays up with me at night telling me her secrets. In the morning I run to see what she’s saved for me. I take my laptop everywhere. She is way more than a tool. The Ipad or Iphone might be sexier but they do not seduce me. As a writer, I cannot ply my craft on those devices.
I realize the “life online” idea is nothing new. It’s so 1999. But that’s not what I’m talking about. My relationship with my computer is more involved than what teenagers have with smart phones or executives and their Blackberries. Those people can’t wait to get the new, new version of whatever their using. Me? I get attached to the hardware. I hold on until the bitter end. Though dead, I still have my 2004 G4. The dings on its silver shell are special to me. As is the backstage pass sticker from the 2005 Secret Machines concert I attended at Cabaret Metro.
Even though my new computer rocks, I can’t chuck the old one. I started this blog on that machine. I wrote the final draft of The Happy Soul Industry and Sweet by Design on it. It is also where I wrote my last TV commercial, for Cabot stains. Alas, my G4 died two years ago. Ironically, it now rests under the landline in my office, which I never use anymore either.
I bet many of you (writers especially) would have a hard time voluntarily getting rid of your old laptops if your company didn’t take them from you.
Is it old school to think of technology this way? I don’t know. Musicians fall in love with their instruments. Especially guitarists, right? When you use a machine to create stuff it takes some of the credit; it becomes a part of you. As awesome as the latest flat screen TV is, it’s still only a delivery system and, as such, the newer one is always better.