Monday, January 12, 2015

It's Good to Be Back

It certainly is good to be back and writing a blog post. After more than eight years of remarkably reliable service, my HP Pavilion a1510n desktop PC running Windows XP finally went kaput on December 27, 2014. When I bought that machine back in September 2006, I never in my wildest dreams expected it to last as long as it did, much less to perform as well as it did for that length of time. The only major problem I encountered was in June of 2010 when the 200 gigabyte hard drive went bad. Instead of throwing the machine out and purchasing a new one as some folks recommended, I had the old hard drive replaced with a new 500 gigabyte version for one-third the cost of a new PC, and I was back up and running for another four and a half years. I have to hand it to HP for designing and building an excellent machine. No wonder they are second only to Apple in consumer ratings. Thankfully, I had  all of my important files stored on CDs and a flash drive right up to the day of my old computer's demise, so I didn't lose anything critical and was well prepared for the day of reckoning.

Several years ago, I began researching new computers and operating systems. I soon settled on Windows 7, which came out in 2010, as my preferred successor to XP based on favorable critical and consumer reviews. Two years after it came out, in 2012, Windows 7 became the official operating system of the U.S. government, which confirmed my decision. As time went on, however, I became concerned that my old PC might continue functioning until Windows 7 PCs were no longer available for purchase. Despite persistently unfavorable consumer ratings, computer manufacturers were increasingly pushing PCs with Windows 8 (which emerged in 2012) and gradually phasing out those with 7 from their catalogs and online stores. In April 2014, XP officially became obsolete, yet my PC stubbornly kept going like the Energizer Bunny, albeit with occasional minor snags.

For a while, I toyed with the idea of eventually getting a Dell Inspiron or some other Dell PC to replace my HP Pavilion. However, in mid-2014 I ultimately decided to stick with HP for three reasons: 1) the performance and longevity of my first HP computer, 2) HP's excellent customer satisfaction record compared with Dell and other manufacturers, and 3) HP's customer friendly approach, including great prices, frequent sales and free shipping, and its relative slowness in phasing out Windows 7 PCs compared with Dell and other manufacturers. As it happened, I was just in time to get on the Windows 7 bandwagon: late last month, HP was offering only two PCs in my price range with this operating system; all the others had the dreaded Windows 8. On top of that, HP was having its end of the year sale, so I got $70.00 off the already low-budget model I settled on: an HP 110-355t.

I lucked out, and I'm thankful for my new PC. It's remarkable how computer technology has continued to develop and come down in price as the years go by. My old PC came with a 200-gigabyte hard drive and 1 gigabyte of RAM, which was cutting-edge technology at the time. Now, for $200.00 less than I spent eight-plus years ago, I have a new PC with five times the hard drive space (yes, a mind-blowing one terabyte) and four times the memory (four GB) of my previous machine. So far I really like the design and functionality of my Windows 7 PC and am pretty satisfied with it. I don't expect it to last as long as the one I just lost, but I'm hoping to get three to four years of use out of it. Of course, if it ends up lasting longer than that, I will be delighted. In any case, I was long overdue to upgrade.

You don't realize just how much a computer, iPhone, or cell phone is part of your twenty-first century work and home lifestyle until you're suddenly bereft of one. You can't send or receive emails, read news, write and publish articles or music, blog, tweet, look at pictures, play games or anything else you usually do on those things. Your identity as a writer and composer and so much of your life is so tied up with that one plastic box of miniature electronic silicon circuitry that when you lose it, you feel as though you've lost a part of yourself. You actually feel like you're stranded on a desert island and have to make do with what you have and bide your time until someone comes to rescue you. Two days after my old computer died, I ordered my new PC on HP's website and had to wait ten additional days for its arrival at my house. It was excruciating. I have a part-time job as a handyman (weather permitting) so I wasn't completely without work, but it was a valuable exercise in patience all the same. I feel that I deserve some kind of award for going twelve days without a computer. I am now a certified survivor of extended PC deprivation. If someone else has gone without longer than this, I would love to read their story.

Well, it's good to be in business again, and I hope to get back into my blogging routine. My next post, which I was intending to write when my old PC crashed, will be about my choice for 2014 Person of the Year, so stay tuned!

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