Quick — what’s worse than a computer’s hard drive crashing? TWO computers’ hard drives crashing! In the past week, my desktop computer went to Cyber Heaven when the hard drive stopped working. It’s been flaky for awhile but I’ve been ignoring the warning signs, preferring to forge ahead and wait for it to die of natural causes (can we really say that about inanimate things?). The hard drive has been occasionally thrashing and not booting up, but usually turning the computer off and on several times jump starts it back to life. But not this time.
So out I went to buy a new computer. The old one was circa 2006, which is prehistoric in computer terms. And I’ve been wanting to upgrade the operating system, so it was time. But then, my husband’s computer decided to do the same thing. He’s been having hard drive issues, too, so within a week we find ourselves with two shiny new computers and a pile of new software to install and a bunch of licenses to sort out with older programs that we’re not sure we want anymore. And when I went to install Firefox it was on version 18. ??? I’ve been offline two days; the last I saw was version 14. Did I sleep for 20 years?
So this has me thinking about what software I want to upgrade, what I want to reinstall, and what I just want to let go. It’s kind of like clothing: you can’t justify buying too much new stuff until the old stuff is worn out or you give it away.
And now, how do we get a writing prompt from this? Well, think about how dependent we are on computers, when in the late 70s and early 80s they were just getting into the consumer market. Now imagine an alternate reality in which computers never became available for average people. What if the government or military decided that we should not have them? Or the transistor was not invented and computers still needed a room full of vacuum tubes? Now, write a short story or outline for a science fiction story in which only a handful of computers exist in the world. How would other technology develop? Would we have cell phones? Would our health research be stuck using X-rays? Would architects still rely on blueline drawings?