On the Perishability of Technology


(SONY Vaio) The original. (Image sourced from Google.)

After accompanying me for five years and three plus months in often indelicate conditions, my Sony Vaio VGN-TX46GP ultraportable laptop finally ground to a halt.

I can’t emphasize enough how fond I was of this piece of equipment. It started breaking down perhaps three years ago with a hard drive crash that necessitated a temporary return to Singapore (its point of purchase). After that, it suffered a slow but steady decline in functionality: its processing speed waned continuously, the DVD drive stopped working altogether, the power cord gave out and a vicious bug meant I had to use Safe Mode all the time (reducing my effective screen size even further when the screen’s readability was already impaired by a millimeter-thick line of mysterious origin that ran through its middle). And, there was also the fact that half the letters on my keyboard had already been effaced.

Despite all this, and despite several exasperated entreaties from family and friends (about my hampered productivity and overabused eyesight), I refused to replace the laptop. My logical explanation was that I simply couldn’t find anything on the market that could best my Vaio’s features (or at least its features as they were originally designed). Like all logical explanations, however, this one was designed to conceal a far less logical attachment.

The truth of the matter was: I loved that Vaio. It contained the entire digital record of my life and was both the tool and the companion in the process of the recording. I took it with me when I traveled and used it when I read, studied, worked and wrote. It was often the first thing I checked when I got up and the last thing I saw when I went to bed. It reminded me of what I’d done and told me what I still needed to do. It was my compass, my journal, my touchstone and my rabbit’s foot. Just seeing its scratched and dented cover was often enough to make feel slightly better.

But tonight, finally, it simply refused to start. I’d press the power button, hear a disturbing whirring sound, then end up seeing the dreaded blue screen. I tried half a dozen times (I’d had many false alarms previously) before finally giving up.

While it seems strange (even to me) to write an obituary of sorts to something that’s not remotely animate, the fact of the matter is that writing an obituary is more to console the living than it is to salute the dead. We all need to work through loss—an object lost is a loss all the same.

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