Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Doc Beggar's Little Pal

I'd almost resolved 2012 would be the year of the new computer. With graduation on the horizon and residency afterward, one starts thinking about transitions, and whether it's time to bite the bullet and upgrade. On top of it all, my laptop has had "issues" lately, At first, it was a malfunctioning touch pad requiring me to hold down the "alt" key in order to move the cursor. Then the "d" key began producing "da" each time I struck it. Finally, the "a" key joined in, sometimes psychotically producing a line of letters that ran off the page and sometimes refusing to work, period, no matter how hard I pressed. What to do?

Well, my computer is off-warranty, restricting my options from the outset. Having worked on my own car in the days when engine size was measured in cubic inches, I decided to search the Dell website and see if I couldn't fix the situation myself. That led to installing a host of new drivers, none of which had the slightest effect on the keyboard, naturally. So, I reinstalled the original keyboard driver two or three times from the CD that came with my computer. And did that work? Uh, no, as a matter of fact, it didn't.

Next, I called Dell tech support. Actually, my first instinct was to call, but I assumed they'd tell me my warranty had expired and there was nothing they could do unless I had a credit card handy. Wrong again, they were nice enough to take a look via computer sharing before politely informing me I needed a new keyboard. Not a new one exactly, because my computer is so dated, new parts are no longer produced. They meant a rebuilt keyboard, i.e. newer than the one I had.

All the while, I'm still thinking about a new computer. I felt badly about it because this one and I have been through a lot. We're veterans of three, going on four, years of medical school and together we've gotten a book published and written several hundred blog posts. That's a lot of history, you know? The thought of reformatting "his" hard drive and erasing six years of my life, despite having saved the data on a backup drive, didn't sit well. It was too much like breaking off a friendship when the going gets rough. Besides, that's when friendship counts the most or so I believe, anyway.

A good night's sleep later, I decided to make a final stab at Google, this time searching the error code I'd gotten from running a diagnostics program. The result indicated a stuck key. Can it really be that simple? I wondered. After prying the cover off the "a" key and thoroughly cleaning its constituent parts, I restarted the computer, crossed my fingers and held my breath. Not only had the "a" recovered its sanity, the "d" no longer typed "da" and my touch pad functioned normally. Forget a new computer, the one I have is "back" and I'm happy as a kid who's discovered reindeer hoof prints in the snow on Christmas morning.

Sure, fixing the problem on my own felt good, but what delights me more is not having to replace Doc Beggar's Little Pal, as I refer to it. It's sort of like a Guild steel-string guitar I packed around throughout college, seminary, graduate school, and beyond. Despite being battered and scratched, it plays well and its sound reflects the depth and character of mature wood. I could have bought another, I suppose, but even if I had, I'd still play this one. We've traveled too many miles and shared too many lonely nights, to call it quits over a few blemishes.

(Creative Commons image of a Guild headpiece by bijoubaby via Flickr)
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