While my desktop computer sits in the shop, I find myself sitting at the dining room table with an ancient, steam-driven, pre-millennial laptop with its lid propped up by a pile of books, a measure necessitated by my daughter Sarah long ago having forcefully closed the lid while a pen was still inside. The cause of this retrogressive technological step is my latest attempt to adapt to the ever-changing electronic environment we live in.
Try as I might, I can't avoid the inevitable yin and yang of the computer world. For almost eight years, I had been blithely typing, e-mailing and surfing away with few problems and hopes for even more years of the same.
I had a stable, secure desktop with a Windows XP operating system that served all of my unsophisticated needs. Plus I had a 15-year-old printer and an equally ancient flatbed scanner. Together we made an efficient, albeit slow and unspectacular, team.
For these last eight years, I had managed, for the most part, to avoid the electronic pirates known as hackers who roam today's cyber-seas. Sure, I encountered the odd phish, bug or virus but usually I could toss them overboard with my array of protective software.
Naively, I thought I could continue my simple ways for the foreseeable future. After all, I didn't play computer games, download movies or save thousands of pictures. After eight years of activity, I still had a half-empty 80 GB hard drive.
But then progress caught up with me or what I prefer to call corporate rapaciousness. Microsoft in its wisdom decided to put an end to its customer support for Windows XP thereby leaving me potentially open to the marauding Internet buccaneers. Notwithstanding that upwards of 30 per cent of users still had Windows XP as their operating system, Microsoft decided it was time to discard this corporate deadweight and gently nudge us last adopters into purchasing something new.
At first I resisted this greedy grab but as the deadline approached, I got cold feet and succumbed to the repeated threats from on high. I decided to buy a "refurbished" (computer-speak for "used") computer with Windows 7.
Past experience suggested that any change to my computer was fraught with danger. Despite the "plug and play" promises from the hardware manufacturers and the "100% compatibility" assurances from the software vendors, I had generally found that adding, changing, upgrading or even deleting something from my little home computer system invariably met with hours of frustration and usually additional acquisitions and consequent expense.
But what choice did I have? Do nothing and Microsoft was going to throw me to the evil hackers who would likely rip my computer into bits and bytes. Upgrade and I would be running the risk of unknown incompatibilities and unbudgeted expenses.
Having chosen the latter, I cringed and waited for the inevitable which didn't take long. Mercifully, it looks like my ancient printer will be acceptable to Windows 7. My scanner, on the other hand, will not. Neither the manufacturer nor Microsoft has deigned to create an upgraded driver to allow my poor scanner to continue its yeoman-like work.
And my keyboard is destined for the trash heap as it didn't think to have a USB connection. Luckily for the mouse, it did and it will live to see another day. Not so for my 20th-century version of WordPerfect which means I am now completely committed to Mr. Gates's less-than-satisfying and appropriately less-grandiosely-named Word.
No doubt I will survive this latest adventure on the electronic high seas but it will take its toll on me both financially and psychologically. In this brave new digital world, I've discovered that there is no longer a right path to follow. These days, it's just a question of choosing which pirates you want to deal with.