As a self-employed editor who’s been working from home full-time for more than 20 years, I’m my own IT person. I’ve been my own IT person since I got my first PC in 1985 (a Leading Edge Model D with a 10MB hard drive and one 5 1/4 inch floppy drive, in case you’re wondering).
Most of the time this works out OK. Sometimes I even get a little cocky because I’m more computer-savvy than most of my friends and clients. This says at least as much about my friends and clients as it does about me, but it’s true, over the years I’ve been able to solve most of my computer problems by either Googling (these days there’s a YouTube video for just about everything) or consulting my editorial colleagues, some of whom are serious computer whizzes.
However, when a task presents itself that’s way out on the outer limits of my competence, I get very, very nervous. Like what if I get myself into trouble I can’t get myself out of?
My workspace. It’s more cluttered now than when I took this picture 8 years ago. A lot more cluttered.
This is why the monitor and keyboard from Morgana V, my ancient WinXP desktop PC, have been gathering dust on my desk for years. As her name suggests, Morgana was the fifth of that name. She was also my last desktop PC. Since she retired, I’ve worked exclusively on laptops, sitting in my comfy recliner. IOW, I never sit at my desk.
For eight or nine years Morgana V was good for playing CDs and the occasional round of Rat Poker (I miss Rat Poker), then she went kaput.
Since then, well, monitor, keyboard, and rollerball mouse have been gathering dust. I could have carted them all off to the semi-annual electronics disposal day at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, but I didn’t need the space so I put it off, and off, and off.
Then, abruptly, I did need the space.
For my soon-to-launch blog about my T-shirt collection, I’ve been mucking around in the 1970s and ’80s, when I was immersed in the lesbian community, the women in print movement, and women’s culture in general. I have plenty of LPs from that era. Plenty of them have never made it onto CDs, never mind MP3s. It’s been at least 20 years since I had anything to play them on.
Yes, I did know that I could pay someone, maybe even someone on the Vineyard, to convert a few LPs, but the matter didn’t become really pressing till a few months ago, and then, well — Covid-19.
Then what to my wondering eyes should appear, probably in an online ad, but a handsome stand-alone Any Music Format Stereo from Hammacher Schlemmer that played LPs, cassettes, and CDs. I took the bait — and shortly discovered that for $100 more (about $350) I could get an equally handsome stand-alone unit that promised to convert LPs and cassettes to CDs.
OMG. The reviews were mixed but HS is a reputable company with a money-back guarantee, so I ordered one. It arrived two days ago. The time had finally come to clear the dead electronics off my desk.
This was the scary part. Remember what I said above about venturing out to the outer limits of my computer competence? The dead monitor, keyboard, and rollerball mouse were still connected to the old CPU (which can stay where it is because it’s not in the way). This meant crawling under the desk to the tangle of cords, cables, and cobwebs behind it. What if I disconnected the wrong thing and disabled one or both of my printers, or, worse, the router/modem that brings the internet into my apartment?
Well, to make a long story short, and to spare myself having to describe my minutes of desperation, at one point I thought I’d done exactly that: both the printers had gone offline and I couldn’t access the internet. But with a little more crawling and jiggling and invoking the cyber gods, everything came back into working order.
Voilà! A clean, flat surface on which to set up my new gizmo, side by side with my laser printer, seen here covered with the remains of a seriously ancient beach towel. (The all-in-one inkjet is on a roll-out shelf on the right, at ground level. The CPU is in the cupboard at left. )
To store the dead equipment till the next Electronics Disposal Day, I cleared the haphazardly stacked, mostly empty cardboard boxes from the top of the desk unit — discovering, among other things, a large sketch pad I’d forgotten I had. It now looks uncharacteristically orderly up there.
Later today, or maybe tomorrow, I will set up the miracle unit and try it out. Meanwhile, I am admiring the one flat uncluttered surface in my apartment. I uncluttered it, to make room for something I wanted. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, if only I can figure it out.