This blog is becoming very me-centered. If that’s a bad thing, I apologize.
I believe it was about seven or eight years ago, in my second year of high school. I had a nice job and some money flow, and decided to finally upgrade my computer. A friend of mine offered to build one for me, and he even put together a shopping list– did I want this video card or that one? How much ram? What kind of sound card? After much debate, I spent the money, and got the best computer I’d ever had. I watched my friend and his buddy assemble it, asking questions the whole time, and when it ws done, they booted up Windows and started to set it up. “It’s asking us to name the hard drive,” they told me. “What should we name it?”
This computer was awesome. It had a huge (at the time) hard drive, and a state of the art (at the time) video card. It was going to play any game I wanted in eyebursting color and resolution. It was going to run like the wind and chop up bits and bytes like a maniac. “The Beast,” I told them. “We’ll call it The Beast.” THE_BEAST (C:) is what my hard drive was called for the longest time.
Yesterday, after eight years of service, the Beast died.
When we first built it, it was awesome. I played Doom II and Quake II on it. I discovered Civ III, Black and White, and Grand Theft Auto II on it. I used it all throughout college– countless papers and presentations, countless webpages visited and pieces written. I ran two webpages from that computer, including a webcam on and off. The Beast is where I ran Napster in its heyday. I remember right before one Christmas break in college, my roommates and I decided to have a Christmas party, and we needed some Christmas music. I started up Napster, found some songs, and was shocked at how fast they were downloading– by the time one song had finished playing, the next had downloaded and queued up. I didn’t call it the Beast for nothing.
Of course, eventually, time passed it by. When I got back from college, I settled down into money again, and discovered that the Beast had tamed a little bit. It still played new games, but only on the lower video settings. It only had a 10gb hard drive, and I’d filled that up quickly (again, this was when Napster was wide open).
So I decided to build another computer. I bought a new case and mobo, and a new videocard and hard drive. I stole the sound card and modem from The Beast, and even took the 10gb hard drive so I could dual boot Windows and Mandrake. The Beast was taken a part, a shell of its former self, and I named my new computer Arthur, after the Hitchhiker’s Guide character.
But I still kept the Beast around. A little while after I built my new computer, a few more computers opened up. My brother retired his old computer, and my parents decided to get a new computer as well, which left me with a bunch of computer parts available. Right before I moved to Chicago, I pulled a bunch of parts out of the old computers, plugged them into the Beast, and somehow, some way, I got it turned on and running. It had an old copy of Win98 running on it, but I quickly downloaded a Knoppix build and installed that on it. The Beast, I thought, was back.
Since then, it’s been sitting here in my room, plugged in but silent. At one point I planned to turn it into an arcade emulator, but didn’t have the time to build a cabinet. Then I planned to make it just a regular second desktop, but could find a real use for it.
Last week, I came up with one more plan for it. I’d install it in the living room, plug it into my surround sound system, and use it as an mp3 jukebox. All I had to do was buy a cable to connect the soundcard to the sound system, and an IR reciever to control it with a remote. Finally, the Beast would live again.
So I moved it out of my room, and plugged it into my home entertainment center. I got it all set up, thinking about how cool it would be to have a computer playing music for me. I set up the monitor, plugged in the mouse and keyboard, and hit the power switch.
And nothing happened.
I checked the cables– all there. I flipped the power switch in back, and still nothing. I checked the outlet– all good. Still no power.
And then I remembered. A few weeks ago, the power had dropped out in my apartment, and I’d heard a horrible click, like something somewhere had been completely fried out. I checked mine and my roommate’s computer and our appliances then, but didn’t find anything. And I remembered how the Beast had been plugged in at the time, and how the click had come from the Beast’s general direction.
I took a look at the Beast’s power source, and sure enough, it was completely fried out. The Beast had finally, after all this time, died.
Sadly, I stripped it of the CD rom, of the memory and the video card, placing them gently in a box for another computer and another time. Tomorrow, I’ll take the metal shell of the computer that once was the Beast down to the back alley, there to be picked up and trashed like so much old technology before it.
It’s kind of sad, saying goodbye to something that’s done so much for me and been with me for so long. You could say that something of The Beast lives on in the computer I have now– I’m listening to music on the same soundcard and speakers, I saw my friend install so long ago, and the Beast’s original hard drive still sits right here next to me, ready to be booted up and run the latest version of Mandrake. But I’ll still be carrying an empty case out to the curb tomorrow, one that I’ve been carrying around for years.
I suppose that, with the advances in robotics we seem to be making all the time, it’s only a matter of time before people start attaching emotions onto their technologies. I think I’ll start early.