The Greatest Computer Ever

Owning a computer is an invitation to waste copious amounts of time. Sure you save a lot of time by looking things up on the internet, but that is offset by incredibly time wasting sessions of solitaire (my belief is that apple wants people to actually use the computer, that's why solitaire isn't bundled with Macs). Even if you are fortunate enough not to have the thousand dollar pack of cards that passes for a Wintel machine there is still a significant investment of time in owning a computer. Install this, throw away that, etc. Computer ownership is made up of a lot of little time wasting tasks spent supporting your own computer, imagine the time killer that is supporting another computer six hundred miles away.

I instinctively knew this so when my parents asked my advice on what kind of computer to buy I entered into the familial duty with a fair amount of trepidation. "I'd get an iMac" I said. Mom and Dad are a thankfully easy sell when it comes to computers and they immediately agreed. They sent me a check to purchase one of the then new iMacs. I purchased an original bondi blue iMac, loaded it in the car and drove twelve hours to deliver the new toy. Fear, abject horror and a bit of excitement coursed through my veins. Best case: they'd love it. Worst case: I'd be getting a brand new iMac.

Predictably, neither scenario came to fruition. They didn't love it, they didn't hate it, they just wanted it to work like a lawn mower. A lawn mower either cuts grass or it doesn't. The computer either surfed the 'net or it didn't. This was great because it's not very hard to keep an iMac surfing the net. As they became comfortable with the computer I began to get calls, "why won't this .exe file work?" "The computer crashed while I was jamming a paperclip in the reset slot, what's the deal?" "I downloaded a game demo and I can't find it, where is it?" the first two are easy answers, the latter takes about a half an hour to fix on the phone. Still, it wasn't so bad, just an occasional call, some drilling through folders and viola happy folks at the homestead.

Unfortunately they became more advanced in their computer use. Suddenly I started fielding question about PRAM and why the icons didn't show up correctly. Why, they once asked, should I set my virtual memory at 65M instead of 1 gig? "Hmm," I said, "set it at whatever you want, you won't notice a difference". Then the call came wondering where the hard drive space went. These are still easy calls, no problems.

Then they got a few games, a couple of extra programs and an attitude. "My computer crashed last Wednesday, what's wrong?" This was a hard problem for me to solve. Equinox? Heavy static? There was no easy answer. Still I had to do something, as far as they new I was Steve Jobs, and I could fix anything. The calls became more frequent and urgent "the computer crashed again, and this time I was using it!" I suggested they buy Norton Utilities. On my next trip home I made an alias, put it on the desktop, and labeled "Use before Chris". This really didn't help, I got more calls than ever. I began to suggest they call Apple because they had paid for technical support.. I thought this would appeal to he frugal nature of my Father, but I was sorely mistaken. Why call Apple when you can call your son? Sure they computer put you back twelve hundred dollars, but that kid costs tens of thousands. I think their faith was ill placed, after all they never called on me to fix the family Pacer, but my parents were certain I could fix the Mac over the phone.

Then, strangely, the calls stopped. At first I felt unloved, after all my parents had finally needed me for more than mowing the lawn and changing the channel. I assumed my parents had just given up on the computer and decided to chalk the whole thing up to twelve hundred dollars worth of moronic son tax. During a compulsory phone call I mustered the courage to ask my Dad about the bondi blue iMac of doom. "Uh, so how's the computer?" I croaked, fearing that I was going to get two earfuls. "It's great!" Dad sounded nearly as ecstatic as when I told him I was moving out. "Great, uh did you say the computer was great?" I stammered. "Yeah, runs like a top since I installed the 8.6 update" came the self assured reply. To say I was a bit surprised would be understating the feeling, by I quickly rationalized that dear old Dad was trying to save my feelings. Then I returned for a visit, and the iMac was running great, the desktop was clean, the trash emptied, cleanly laid out folder system, heck it was better off than my computer. Dad reported that he was having no problems whatsoever, was elated with the purchase and was getting a cable modem in a few weeks. A cable modem was certain doom, I could envision the calls while trying to install this beast.

The calls never came. The iMac which had started out so inauspiciously has been percolating along without a support call for two years. On my most recent visit I did get peppered with a lot of questions. Oddly enough these were questions I couldn't answer. "Is there a compelling reason for me switch to X?", "I hear new iMacs are coming out in July, what do you think they'll be like?", "If I buy Apple stock at under $20, do you think it will see $27?", "Why did the cube flop?". All interesting questions, but hardly the thing you'd expect to hear at a computer help desk. Dad was also interested in adding some more memory. I told him to be sure to get the kind that was compatible with the new firmware update. He informed that this update did not exist for the tray loading iMacs, and hence he wasn't going to bother with searching out the super compatible RAM. I chortled "Dad, what if you upgrade to 9.1, or X? What then?" "Well Chris 9.1 is just a bridge to X, and I like my Mac just the way it is." Dad replied. So, in one brief sentence, I went from computer hero to iMac zero. Dad doesn't call for computer help anymore, he's become suspect of my knowledge of all things Mac.

Now why does all this make the bondi blue iMac the greatest computer ever. Well, it's never been to the shop, never refused to start and gave my parents the chance to learn without screwing anything up. Add to that essential coolness that the thing still screams for the stuff my Dad does. Dad's iMac is good for at least another three years, and probably for as long as he wants to keep it. I am not out of the computer support woods yet, my sister bought a Dell. She needs a new hard drive and plenty of other stuff done to the computer so I've got that to deal with. Personally, I think Dad could handle the problems. However, age comes wisdom and when Sis asks Dad he says "Call Chris." I bet he's smiling the whole time.