By Caleb John Clark
Wherein our hero battles against a totally unnecessary upgrade gone awry. Told using the classic mythological outline from “The Writer’s Journey” by Christopher Vogler, based on Joseph Campbell’s work.
***The Ordinary World:
To keep things simple, and protect the innocent, our hero’s name in this story will be Hero.
Life is good for our Hero. His 520c Macintosh laptop is working well, email flows, crashes are rare and work it getting done.
Every day Hero looks at the rounded lines of this famous laptop, the way the screen curves over the palm rests where duel batteries nest and keep his hands warm, the torpedo shaped hinges, the smiling track pad, and he is happy.
At the cafe Hero frequents people come up just to ask what kind of computer he is using. Geeks nod with discrete respect as they pass. A cute earth mother java jockey, who wears glitter on her eyes, wants to see astronomy software some night. Our hero likes to call this woman the “glitter girl” and is quite smitten by her blinks.
But there is something nagging in his head, a feeling that there is more out there for him then just a stable computer.
***The Call to Adventure:
Hero stumbles upon a screaming deal on a Power PC upgrade for his laptop. He absolutely must buy the upgrade because it’s $500 cheaper then it should be. He can not say no. Now he can upgrade, making his out of date computer state of the art baby!
***Refusal of the Call:
There is absolutely no good reason to upgrade. None. Everything is working fine and is in fact more stable then new Macs. Our hero knows that the chances are good that the upgrade will cause problems, the very least of which is software not loaded for Power PC and communications snafus. His sanity still with him, he decides to wait.
***Meeting with the mentor (supernatural aid):
In this case the mentor is boredom, the Petri dish of upgrade-its.
Hero finishes a project and is bored, so he decides to become unbored by putting in the upgrade daughter board. He could exercise, read, but no, he goes for the upgrade. Besides the friend that turned him onto the 500 series laptop has upgraded and, after only a few days of playing Init hide and seek, is screaming along at 100Mhz.
***Crossing the 1st threshold (belly of the whale):
The upgrade is slapped in with a friend. It doesn’t work. The old board is put back in and the computer works like a dream again.
But the upgrade festers in it’s box, clawing to realize it sexy speed, its new architecture, it’s nowness.
Then a fateful download day arrives. Hero downloads a new piece of software that only runs on new computers, upgraded computers. He doesn’t really need this software, but it would make some things “easier”. This pushes him over the edge. He decides, even though he is without external hard drives and CD’s, to upgrade. His mission is clear, damn the torpedoes. Besides, he’s bored again.
***Tests, allies, enemies, (road of trials):
Hero meets an ally, the local Mac Authorized dealer who confirms the upgrade won’t take. Apple Care insurance is purchased for $240 for a year (Deep inside our hero knows he’s lost his mind and insurance would be a good thing to have) to cover the $400 motherboard that is needed so the daughter board will take. Hero thinks about the strangely incestuousness nature of this, but only for a moment, he moves on.
The new mother board comes but it’s defective, again, and is sent back.
Apple becomes the enemy. After all, they were the ones who installed a version “b” motherboard that won’t take an upgrade that they sell and then they had the gall to ship a defective part! He doesn’t buy the Apple stock he planned to.
Hero is then caught at the cafe looking at a Thinkpad with a tiny twinge of doubt. He takes this as a sign that he’s loosing his mind, not realizing he’s already lost it, and must finish the upgrade quickly.
He gets used to writing on a yellow pad and actually tries a manual typewriter. Both give him hand cramps.
His computer is again put back together and works seamlessly. Nods at the cafe continue, the glitter girl is talkative and they go for a Surf.
But Hero feels something uncompleted, a feeling of failure that gnaws at him like worms squiggling through an apple.
***Approach to the inmost cave:
Finding himself board while the new motherboard is being shipped, Hero decides to “help” the process by downloading the system 7.5.5 update from the Apple site. His computer complies seamlessly, not realizing the danger it faces, it’s only interest is in performing like a good solid pre-PPC Mac should.
***Supreme Ordeal: (Meeting with the goddess, woman as temptress, atonement with the father, apotheosis.):
He installs the system update. It’s corrupt and the computer immediate freezes on boot up and flashes a Japanese warning, yes Japanese!
From hundreds of restart attempts Hero learns by heart the six Japanese characters in the warning’s little oval that must mean “restart”.
Everybody at the cafe keeps asking him where that sexy looking curvy computer he uses is? Geeks see his yellow pad and discount him for a graduate student with no hope of paying back the loans.
The glitter girl tires of his techno babble and begins to talk to the guy using the Thinkpad. His days as the keeper-of-a-geek who is going to be as-rich-as-Gates-in-a-few-minutes-when-his-start-up-hits-the Web-and-goes-public are over.
His father asks how work is going. Hero explains his situation using all the lies one must for the computer illiterate. “I had to do an upgrade to run some important new software and there’s some bugs to work out. Nothing serious, just the usual little quirks, like when you drop a 318 V8 into Dodge Dart with a burnt out slant 6”. His father’s advice, “So you’re bored. Son, every man has got to face the V8 upgrade, the need for speed, good luck, just have the right tools and don’t ask for any money, this is your journey and yours alone.”
What his father doesn’t realize is that our hero did what amounts to taking out a slant 6 with 3 miles on it (Slant 6s run forever and a day with nary a peep) and is in the process of using a chain saw to try and fit a Ferrari V12 into the little darling.
Left with a useless computer that thinks it’s turning Japanese, Hero drops the whole enchilada of at his ally, the Mac dealer, and limps to the cafe and more hand cramps.
He wishes he was the kind of a woman who was tempted by sales when bored, at least then he’d look good.
Nobody at the cafe even asks him about the upgrade for fear of his spiteful look, in fact nobody at the cafe seems to talk to him about anything anymore.
Hero picks up the damned machine. Upon arriving the Mac dealer shows him that it’s hung on the system install. It’s dead. He has to reload everything.
But the new shaded Power PC smiley icon can be seen before the system freezes! and Hero is comforted by its familiar smile but new Power PC shading on the bottom. He knows now it’s simply a matter of “glitches”, the upgrade has taken hold! He can see the new smiley icon!!! He is reaching, clamoring, up a hill of failed technology looking for a handhold, anything to hold on to.
Hero returns to the cafe and his pad. He writes more illegible characters down on the strange paper and gets another hand cramp. The Glitter Girl smells failure and takes his empty coffee cups with a pitying smile.
***Reward, (ultimate boon):
Apple Care covers everything but $200 in labor and it’s ready! Hell, our hero has still only spent…well…$650 for no good reason. But hey, a new upgrade board costs $700, so he’s still clear in his twisted mind which neglects lost time and hassle, and the fact that he could have sold the upgrade and made a $400 profit.
He picks up the piece of shit, as he now calls it, and by god it boots!!!
But our adventure is not over. Hero takes a causal glance at the “about this Macintosh” while at the shop. He sees that his $300 worth of extra RAM, RAM that is his pride and joy, RAM that makes him proud to never use that sickening, fake, shape shifting, Virtual Memory, or the just plain evil RAM Doubler, is not being seen by the computer. They try other RAM. They pray. They zap. They fiddle. No dice.
But the computer works, and it is a Power PC, a Power PC, finally. So Hero walks slowly away from the shop and goes back to the cafe.
There he smiles over his tears and tells everyone that the upgrade is in! There’s a “slight” problem but he now has a Power PC. Left alone he sips coffee bitterly and wills the damn machine to see the RAM.
“See the RAM!!!” He screams inside his head. But it is blind. Taking the RAM into account he has spent…a lot.
Looking over his shoulder for any computer geeks, he turns on Virtual Memory, thereby slowing his computer down to a speed just below his original, stable, proven, old computer which scoffed at Virtual Memory.
Well at least he can boot up that new software he really doesn’t need, that will feel good he thinks to himself. He tries it and gets this warning: “This software needs 16MB of RAM, real honest RAM, to run. This computer does not have it, it used to, but then you went and fucked it up, Ha, ha, ha, ha!”
But he has a computer that works fine, and it is a Power PC, as he has told every person he meets. Only he knows he’s RAM deficient.
He proves his new speed by showing the Glitter Girl the newly shaded smiley icon. She pats him on the head. But then he shows her the astronomy software, which she likes! They go outside and see the stars, and the computer only crashes once. Another date is planned.
Returning home our hero comforts himself further by logging on successfully and reading 200 back logged emails without blinking. Life is good.
***The road back, (the magic flight, rescue from within, crossing the threshold, return):
Hero has learned, well been made aware anyway, of many lessons about upgrading. But he is still not satisfied with living life as a RAM challenged individual. He wants his old RAM levels back and a stable computer. He is more determined, some might say pigheaded, then ever.
Hero uses the Mac dealers shop and reinitializes his hard drive, even zeroing out the SOB. Then he does a clean install of system software.
No dice, it still can’t see the RAM. But he has the wonderful feeling of having a clean hard drive. Better even then that Norton Speed Disk feeling. His laptop is now even closer to being almost as fast as his pre-upgrade computer. Almost.
***Resurrection, (master of the two worlds.):
The Mac dealer sends the laptop away directly to Apple, who says it must be the daughter board. The third one so far, a regular family. They will return it in a couple of days.
During this time our hero and the glitter girl go out without the laptop chaperoning, and our hero learns that the glitter on her eyes does come off when she showers.
***Return with the elixir (freedom to live):
To his delight the laptop is returned in complete working order! Better then it was before, more powerful then an old Mac, able to run any bit of software and to do faster, to render tall buildings in a single minute. He even figures out Open Transport, but it sucks so he trashes it.
Our hero is back in action! Geeks at the cafe nod twice seeing the PPC sticker on his venerable work horse, the glitter girl and he glitter, and he is happy.
When asked about the upgrade he sighs the sign of wisdom and says, “So you’re bored. Son, every man has got to face the V8 upgrade, the need for speed, good luck, just have the right tools and don’t ask me for any money, this is your journey and yours alone.”