New Computer by Barbara Nadel

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People, or so it seems to me, buy new computers quite a lot these days. As well as those who work in IT and people who have to have an efficient machine for their businesses, there is an element of fashion in this too. Last year I was in Covent Garden when Apple launched their new whatever it was and, as I passed their shop, people were waving their new machines in the air while other people cheered. Until I twigged what was going on I thought that maybe I’d slipped into the end of the London Marathon (Heaven forbid!) by mistake. But no, it was just a new Apple ding dang (or whatever) and it was a big deal.

I can’t tell you how long I’ve had my present computer. I don’t think that Stalin was still alive, but then he died before I was born so that’s impossible. The point is, it is getting on. Luckily for me, my husband works in IT and so, over the years, he has nursed it through its various crises – some age related, some at my very heavy hands. In the last year however, the poor old girl has strained even his ‘little grey cells’.

Basically booting up was becoming a war of attrition. Weapons in my armoury included getting up very early in the morning, looking at the machine in a knowing, sideways sort of fashion and mumbling vague threats peppered with expletives. The computer’s response was always the same. Slow, moving inexorably to slower – all the time looking at me with a ‘you loser’ expression on its keyboard.

Of course, it always won in the end. In spite of a deluge of big and clever swearing from me, it booted up when it wanted to, and only then, leaving me hopping around my office like a lanky, infuriated flea. It couldn’t go on. So last Sunday I went with my husband to the Trafford Centre, just outside Manchester, with a view to entering the local Apple temple (or shop).

We visited other electronic selling emporia too, where I looked at small things that claimed to be computers while boys stared at me as one might stare at a visitor from Space. People young enough to be my children asked me what games I liked to play on my PC and whether I used my machine to watch films. I gave them my lost tribe of the Amazon style ‘what IS your world about?’ look while my husband patiently explained that all I do is write books and look stuff up on line. And, although I feared being captured by these people and exhibited in a freak show, I think I just about got away with it. There is as yet no money on my head, as far as I am aware.

I ended up buying a second hand iMac (and very nice too – or it will be once I’ve worked it out) but not before I had looked at the new machines in the Apple shop. In there everything was clean and bright and rather over-heated and very enthusiastic. Totally alien to me but I went with it and listened to what I was told, got my husband to translate and wondered at the lightness of the laptop machines. The shop was full of excited young people, some with their parents, most without, a few grey haired computer wizards from the 1980s (like my husband) and lots of leather jacketed men who would not meet your eye and who paid for their purchases in cash. I think that everyone except me had an iPhone. There was anyway much moving of fingers over small, bright screens.

Another shop eventually supplied me with my second hand iMac (it doesn’t do the latest rumba or whatever but I don’t care) and, as I say, I am very pleased with it. Once I’ve learnt ‘Apple’ I hopefully, won’t have to buy another computer for another decade or so. And yes, I really hope not because that is something that really does make my blood run cold. What will buying a computer be like when this generation of techies are middle aged? What questions will the new techies be asking us then? ‘Would madam like a machine with a built in orgasmatron and spa function?’ ‘Would you like that with ************* (I can’t even imagine what stuff will be called then)?’ Or will there be no questions at all because all the lights, in fact, all the power, will all have gone by then?

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