console me

My laptop has been a steady companion for the last three years. Sure, the battery has deteriorated since I was a wide-eyed freshman, but it has otherwise never given me any problems. Until today, when the space bar decided that it’d had enough and would press itself to its heart’s content without the slightest provocation. I could barely type a URL in Chrome without the cursor making a mad dash to the right of the screen. I was stuck at the bottom of any website, the cursor still blinking madly as it tried to go beyond the end of the webpage.

Nothing wrong with the key itself, the Apple store guy at our campus bookstore told me. Then he said the four worst words I’ve ever heard besides “We’re out of guac”: “It’s a hardware issue.” This meant separation, and along with it, separation anxiety.

When my technology is defective, my life feels defective. Sure, I can check email and social media on my phone, but my laptop is my work. As a computer science student who writes code for a living, the first thing I thought of was the loss of my carefully curated development environment. For me, it’s not just about whether or not I can access Facebook. It’s whether or not homebrew/git/pip/rvm is installed or if I’ve configured my SSH keys. It’s been so long since I’ve set up all these things that I don’t even know how good I have it with my laptop until it stops working. I’ve been on a Mr. Robot binge so forgive the Elliot Alderson digression, but the very way our computers are set up are very telling about us as people. What apps are kept in the dock? Where is the dock positioned? Customized shortcuts and corners? Natural or unnatural scroll? External hard drive or Dropbox? And sure, I could borrow or use other computers, but it’s like living in someone else’s house - perfectly fine and functional, but it doesn’t feel like home.

No, this is not a “durr hburr technology is bad fire is scary and thomas edison was a witch” rant. In fact, today made me appreciate the pros and cons of all this technology we have at our disposal. Centralization, decentralization. The omnipresent Cloud can actually be a gift. The interconnectedness of dependencies, apps, and installations. Thank God for the web, which can be accessed anywhere from any machine.

Written on October 9, 2015