This computer, from "Zeos", I think, had a catchy name which I've forgotten, and was marketed as an all-in-one, "zippetty-doo-da" fast, productivity-increasing, feature-packed system, from a company who'll be there tomorrow. It was, like most computers you'd buy for your mom, immediately obsolete, but great for email. It was also great for playing computerized bridge and pinochle which is as far as my mother wants to go in computer gaming. For a couple years this Pentium 75 zippety-doo-dahed along quite happily, raising my mother's productivity considerably before trying to retire early, by pretending its motherboard was fried. Unable to convince it otherwise, I buried the "fried" motherboard unceremoniously at the curb and replaced it with one scavenged from a derelict PC carcass which was camped in my office.
This "new" PC was even faster than the previous, which made it about as current as writing email on parchment with an ostrich feather dipped in India Ink, but bought me another year of not buying a new system. That was a little over a year ago. A few months ago, that computer died too. So, a new computer was ordered, with a place to plug a complete modern life right into the back. USB ports, Serial ports, Modem Ports, Mouse ports, Ethernet, Fishnet, Parallel ports, Perpendicular ports, car ports, Video out, Video back in, and PDA handheld-infrared-ultraviolet-see-in-the-dark-intradimensional wireless toaster ports, pipe anything and everything into a tiny beige box. This box is great for email, and for playing computer bridge and pinochle.
For a month, my mother became really productive (mom's productivity is measured in forwarded joke emails), and then, abruptly, stopped being productive at all. Concerned about the uncharacteristically empty "Mother" folder in Outlook Express (a subfolder of "Deleted Items"), I sent several emails which went unanswered. It occurred to me that she might have been sucked into some port on the back of the computer and was deadlocked in a virtual game of computerized cribbage with either Keanu Reeves or a rogue supercomputer from IBM, but I didn't follow up on this. The next time I heard from her was on my answering machine - "You can cancel my internet access, I've packed up the computer and put it in the closet. Bye."
My mother's messages often sound like epitaphs, but this sounded particularly dire. I knew that either Keanu had beaten her in cribbage or her computer had died. Despite being totally generic, the new computer was still new and still under warranty, a warranty that the computer gnomes in her closet were unlikely to honor, but which my local computer supplier probably would. I took drastic measures and called her. A frustrated woman answered, close to tears "Well, it stopped getting email two months ago and then one day I turned it on and no picture showed up and I didn't want to bother you because 'You're so busy' and I know it's my fault and..."
She was not particularly helpful in troubleshooting the problem. Furthermore, the computer's condition of being unplugged in a dark closet made successful diagnostics so grim a prospect that I patiently explained the whole "gnome-warranty" thing to her and asked that she send it back to me. Swayed by my logic, she agreed, and several days later a package arrived from her.
Understandably excited by the prospect of fixing a computer I bought because it wouldn't need much fixing, I tore open the package to reveal one unremarkable, heavily over-insured surge suppressor. Remember the surge suppressor? Confusion descended. I felt as though I'd ordered a latte and been handed a stapler. Was it the words I'd used? Did the gnome story scare her? Did I say "Please just send me any object and I'll use it to fix your computer from a thousand miles away." Again, I took emergency measures and called her. I pretended that I hadn't opened the box in case it was an early Christmas present. "Please tell me this is an early Christmas present" I said. "No, it's that damned computer" was the reply that I both feared and got. Because this surge suppressor is about as mistakable for a computer as an old leather boot, I had two painful options; one of making my mother feel like a total boob, and the other of configuring an email client on a mid 90s surge suppressor. Boob it would be. I said, as delicately as possible "Mother, this isn't a computer, it's an old boot!"
On my desk now sits the multi-port roadster of a computer that arrived today from Florida. Sure enough, there's the bridge and pinochle CD still in the drive and, sure enough, it doesn't work. I suspect that the huge dent in the case, indicating some sort of collision, trauma, impact, stampede or other violence might have something to do with that. Maybe the tech gnomes took a whack at it. Whatever. She's my mother. I love her. I'll just fix it.