A Catholic Monthly Magazine

R.I.P. Death of a Computer



It’s still magic, even if you know how it’s done.

– Terry Pratchett, 1948-2015

A Hat Full of Sky


By Anne Kerrigan


Artwork by Felicity Ann Nettles

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

– Arthur Clarke, 1917-2008
British science writer and inventor

Profiles of the Future

It was a quiet summer morning in 2018. I was up early and ready to start writing. I had all my reference notes available at my side, and I felt energetic, eagerly disposed to begin penning a few words. I made myself a cup of tea and sat at the computer. I turned it on, ready and raring to go. Nothing. A black screen. Silence. I check the plug. The computer was all plugged in and good to go. Actually, I really didn’t know what else to do because I am a veritable computer illiterate. When I turn the computer on, it should be up and running, not blank, dull, noiseless. I drank the hot tea, trying to quell the mounting panic.

I turned the computer off, and waited a few minutes. I hoped that this little rest would shake it into consciousness. I turned it back on. Again, nothing. Pitch black screen. I shook it a little. No movement at all. No sign of life. I wanted to give it a little kick to shake up the innards a bit, but I decided to pass on that idea. Instead, I prayed over it, even while acknowledging the absolute absurdity of praying over a computer. Desperation often drives one to irrationality. This has never happened to me before and I was quickly transformed into a state of sheer panic. What if I lost all my essays? My memoir, my life in words, was in those essays. Just the thought of losing all that material reduced my knees to jelly, and my knees weren’t so good to begin with! I am usually a calm person, but this computer debacle had me frazzled.

I grabbed my telephone book for the phone number of our ‘go-to’ computer whiz. Kevin immediately answered. “I’m in the neighbourhood. I’ll be right over”.

Deo Gratias! Saved, I thought, because Kevin will work his magic and my computer will spring to life. Within the hour, Kevin arrived. He perched himself in front of my computer, touched a few buttons, and waited. Nothing. Nada. Blank screen. Deafening silence. I could feel my panic rising, reaching fever pitch. The panic was not about losing the computer and having to purchase a new one. It was all about losing the essays and the email addresses contained within that little black box, whatever it is called.

Kevin then used some instruments in his magic kit, hooked them up to the computer and waited. Again, nothing. A few more machinations followed, but still no response from my apparently very ill computer.

“What’s the verdict?” I asked.

“R.I.P.”, he said.

“Did you have your documents backed up?”

Backed up? My mind went blank. Cars are backed up, but documents? I had a vague recollection about the importance of having documents saved. I did save all of my essays in the WORD program, and I thought that was sufficient. As previously mentioned, I am a technophobe. Computer terminology is literally a foreign language to me. I don’t understand it, nor do I particularly want to understand it. My brain does not seem to want to wrap itself around all those new nouns, verbs, numbers, and initials. I explained to Kevin that the documents had been saved, but I had no understanding about ‘back-up’. He sensed my growing alarm, reassuring me that he thought he would be able to retrieve everything from the hard drive of the computer. I was not even sure what hard drive meant, and I was too embarrassed to ask. Maybe it was the little black box. Off he went with my dead computer under his arm, planning to use his many and varied computer skills to salvage my essays and my email addresses. As he left, he suggested we buy a new computer.

“When I return, I’ll bring your documents, and I’ll set up the new computer”. Hope springs eternal.

My computer was purchased about ten years ago, so it has served me well. In retrospect, I wish I had been better informed about computer issues. If I had been, I wouldn’t be dealing with the angst of worrying about whether or not the documents would be able to be retrieved. Actually, I wondered how I would manage without my computer. Considering the fact that I am such a computer illiterate, my very real concern about the lack of a computer surprised me. Without realising it, I guess I have become very dependent on modern technology.

Laurie Anderson, an American musician, has said, “Technology is the campfire around which we tell our stories”. I need my computer in order to keep telling my story. And, most of all, I need those documents because most of my story is contained in the innards of that now dead machine. I’m praying over the totally dead machine again, as nonsensical as that might be, hoping to revive it remotely!

As soon as Kevin left with my defunct machine, my husband and I immediately made plans to buy a new computer. The next day, we set off on a mission to find a new laptop. At the local computer store, the clerk was accommodating and very knowledgeable, too knowledgeable. As he prattled on, spouting codes, statistics, and initials, I could feel the beginnings of a massive headache and developing facial tics. It was total and absolute sensory overload, and so we made a hasty exit. Time to regroup.

We decided to head to our local Costco store. It was where we had purchased the previous computer, and we had been satisfied. We found the perfect computer, as per the salesperson! The fact that my head wasn’t pounding was a good sign. The computer gods seemed to be smiling upon me. We purchased the computer, along with the warranty program, and headed for home. The next day, I left a message for Kevin informing him that a brand new laptop was waiting for him!

When Kevin arrived the next day, he informed me that he was able to retrieve all my data from the deceased computer. In his hand was a beautiful little device called a zip drive, (I’m learning!) which contained all the data. My prayers worked! I raised that ancient machine from the dead (only kidding)!

Kevin started his wizardry. He started up the new machine, without even reading the instructions, and it sprung to life with noise and flashing lights. He then transferred all the data from that little device into the new machine. I was starting to breathe easier.

It is still hard to believe how lost I was without my computer, which I hated when I first bought it, and then panicked when it passed away on me. Now, with my new and updated machine, I will start to learn a little more than the basics. I promised myself that every day, I would call the support team, trying to learn something new.

I am ready to start writing again.

As I reflected on the episode of my now deceased computer, I was struck by how similar some of the aspects of that episode mirrored my spiritual journey. When I was panicked and feeling very helpless in the face of technology, Kevin, my computer guru, came to my rescue. He calmed my frazzled nerves and reassured me that he would do his best to salvage my work from the innards of the dead computer.

When life occasionally overwhelms me and I am feeling battered, God comes to my rescue. God breaks through my panic and reassures me of his presence. He does this through my frenzied prayers and sustains me as I navigate the situation which envelopes me. God “comes right over” just as Kevin did. All I have to do is “call”. When I am panicked and battered, God will rescue me, just as Kevin rescued my essays from that computer.

I feel it is very important to be reflective about life’s episodes and incidents because, in some way, those situations will tell me something about my relationship with God. God is ever present, and I must keep looking, assessing, observing and then reflecting, so that I will see him and feel his calming presence in every situation of my life.

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