My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

I have the power

Yesterday my laptop power adapter died. It was fine all day at work, but when I plugged it in after coming home, there was no joy. My computer blithely informed me it was draining its battery, oblivious to the fact that, if I did nothing, it would only have a few hours of life left. I suspect that the adapter was miffed that I was making a big deal of my computer's fourth anniversary and ignoring it, the real workhorse. No matter how much I wiggled the many and various connections on the adapter, there was no joy. While part of me was freaking out, the rest of me calmly formed a plan to go to Future Shop and spend ten minutes standing awkardly in front of the display of adapters until someone noticed I could use some help. And so, while my plans for a quiet evening reading outside were thrown into disarray, I managed to ensure my computer continues to receive an uninterrupted supply of yummy electricity. You're welcome.

I'm sorry, power adapter, for taking you for granted. You are a marvel of physics and engineering, converting day in and day out Tesla's treacherous AC into Edison's DC so I can continue downloading adorable captioned photos of cats. Nevertheless, you are really only a minor player in this game; and when you play the game, you win, or you die. Guess which one you chose?

When it comes down to the wire, you are expendable and somewhat easily replaced. My computer, not so much, but even then I can replace parts of it without shedding (many) tears. In the four years that I have owned it, I have had to replace the battery and the keyboard once. The former I bought from another vendor, because Dell charges egregiously for new batteries; the latter, however, came under warranty fewer than 24 hours after I called. That was years ago. Last week I bought a new OEM keyboard on eBay, because the labels on this one are slowly eroding, and one of the Shift keys clicks annoyingly when I press it. I'm thinking about replacing the battery again too, but I haven't decided.

Ideally, I want to keep this computer for another year, maybe two. It is starting to show its age, not only in its wear and tear but just in that general sense of impending dread one develops when working with technology: nothing catastrophic has happened yet, but every day brings me one day closer to the inevitable hard drive failure. And there comes a point in every computer owner's life when he or she realizes it is time to upgrade and move on. We can still cherish and look back fondly on our older computers, but we must also reap the improvements of technology from today.

I admit, though, to being more sentimental about this computer than I ought to be. It's a Dell Inspiron 6400, by the way, codenamed "serenity" for reasons that are best left between me, Joss Whedon, and everyone else who has watched Firefly. Compared to the fiasco that was my first laptop, a Toshiba Satellite, I cannot be more satisfied. My Toshiba was cranky, and although I had the motherboard replaced twice in under two years, it continued to overheat at the slightest provocation. Serenity runs a little warmer than I'd like these days (I should probably open it up and clean the fan, but I'm a chicken when it comes to hardware), but never once has this computer overheated. I'm sure there are plenty people who have had the reverse of my experience with Toshiba and Dell, and of course that is the subjectivity of customer loyalty right there. I'm not sure if I'll buy another Dell when I finally decide to get a new computer, but I will strongly weigh the option--and likewise, I doubt I will buy a computer from Toshiba again.

So these four years have been plenty of good times with my computer, and I hope for a few years more. One day, I know I will have to let go. But not today. Today, we mourn the loss of my power adapter. It was the original, and it was reliable, and it was totally better than a computer. And no, it's not reaching from the power adapter afterlife and putting these words in my hand, nor has it somehow managed to override the keys on my keyboard. Power adapters are just awesome, and you should swear your fealty to them before they rise up and take the world by force.

Long live the AC/DC conversion revolution!