The Upgrade

It’s been six years now since I made my first computer purchase—a Performa 550 with a weeny 68030 processor inside. I keep telling myself, “Time to upgrade, Pete, time to get one of those new fancy schmancy machines.” But every time I get close to committing myself to a new purchase something always seems to get in the way.

By the time I learned there was a significant difference between a 68030 and a 68040 machine, (after the purchase, of course) I cursed myself for not going the extra couple hundred bucks and getting the ‘040. But hey, what did I know? I was computer illiterate and a truck driver on top of that. I did, however, promise myself that I would save up the bucks and get into a speedier machine as soon as possible. So save I did, and before long I was ready to make the trip back to the candy store and purchase a ‘040. The Mrs. didn’t quite understand why I needed a new computer so soon after laying out two grand and some change for the one I had, but she didn’t ask too many questions and was very supportive right up until the day before we were going to make the purchase.

What happened on that “day before” was a trip to the family dental practitioner by our youngest daughter, Lindsey. When Lindsey and her mom returned home I was informed that braces were in order if we wanted to keep her pearly-white smile in a straight line under her lips. Having just gone through this same thing with her older sister, I knew this would do in all my stash of cash—and then some. I tried reasoning with Lindsey by telling her that if she never smiled no one would ever notice her crooked teeth. She didn’t buy it, her Mom didn’t buy it, so consequently I didn’t buy it… the ‘040 that is.

Okay, back to square one. Start saving again.

As things turned out I was glad I didn’t make the “mistake” of purchasing a 68040 machine because shortly thereafter Apple introduced their new PowerPC line. “Now this is what I’ve been waiting for!” I told myself. “I really need one of these!” myself answered back. ” And have one you shall!” said some unknown third entity in my head.

I would visit my new PowerPC machine several times a month at the local computer candy store. I even went so far as visiting it at COMDEX 95 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Not that it was actually mine at the time but it would be, oh yes indeed, it surely would be! No more daughters needing braces this time. I was home free.

Trucking that year was very good to me. I was able to stash away quite a large sum in a short time. Enough to buy a top of the line PowerMac and still have enough left over to get the Mrs. a nice Christmas present. I had planned to get both the computer and my baby doll’s present on the same day, December 20th. But on Dec. 15th I was headed home from Phoenix, Arizona, my last trip before taking the rest of the year off. I stopped in the small town of Hawthorne, Nevada to have a cup of coffee and call home to let my wife know I was on schedule and would see her in a day and a half.

“It’s me,” I said when she answered the phone.

“Something’s wrong with the car, Peter.” was her reply.

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked.

“How should I know? It just won’t go.”

“Does it start?”

“Yes it starts. But I put it in gear and it won’t go!”

“Did you release the emergency brake?”

“PETER! I’m not stupid. It just won’t go!”

“Okay, okay. Call the garage and have them come out and look at it. I’ll call you tomorrow and see how it’s going.”

When I called the next day I was informed that the transmission in her car could now be used as a paperweight or a door stop, but not much else.

When I got home I immediately went out and bought the Mrs. her Christmas present. A new (used) car. I didn’t have anything left over for a PowerMac.

Okay, back to square one. Start saving again.

Well into my third attempt at saving up for a new computer I realized I really didn’t need a new one. After all, the one I had was doing everything I asked it to do and was doing it flawlessly, although not as fast as I might have wanted. I wanted a new one, sure, but need one? Not really. Then Apple threw me a curve ball by introducing their new OS that would only run on a PowerPC. I was to be left behind in Apple’s dust running 7.5.5 if I didn’t upgrade. I reevaluated my philosophy on upgrading and began thinking along the lines of dual use and mobility. A PowerBook is what I needed. That way I could continue my computing experience on the road as well as at home.

Alas, about the time I saw a PowerBook in my not-to-distant future, my second daughter approached me insisting she had gone as far as she could in college without a laptop computer, and could her mother and I maybe help her out. I had to decide what was more important, my daughter’s future or my ability to surf the net at a faster clip. Tough call, but I capitulated to my daughter’s future.

Now that my daughter has a PowerBook (a used 5300 that she insists I can have as soon as she graduates in June), I have pretty much given up on the idea of upgrading. No more saving for me. At least not for a new computer. I’ll just save for the next family financial crisis and spare myself the agony of disappointment.

This is where I originally intended to end this crybaby, don’t-you-feel-sorry-for-Pete article.

BUT WAIT! There’s some LATE BREAKING NEWS to be added here! Yes, indeed there is!

Picture if you will: it’s Good Friday, April 2nd, 1999. I’ve got half this article written and still have eight days till deadline. I’m sitting in my easy chair imitating a potato. A knock comes at the door. I look around and realize I’m the only one in the room. I get up and open the door. It’s the UPS man. Oh great! More Tupperware, QVC junk, or some other useless crap, I think. But wait! What’s that huge box behind this Buster Brown man? That’s an iMac box! “What the hell!” I exclaim.

“Got yourself a new computer, huh?” Says Buster Brown.

“I wish. But no, you must have the wrong address,” I tell him.

Buster looks down at the electronic thingamajig in his hand and asks. “Does Pete Miner live here?”

My heart stopped and I quit breathing. For a second I thought he said my name.

“Are you Pete Miner?” Buster asks again.

I must not have answered him the first time and all I could do the second time was nod my head.

“Sign here, please.”

I scribbled something loosely resembling my name on his electronic thingamajig and the UPS man thanked me, turned and left.

There on my doorstep sat a colorful box that, if I could believe the markings on the box, contained a $1200 iMac computer. I picked it up, carried it inside and set it down right in the middle of the living room floor. And began circling the box.

My wife walked in and saw the box on the floor.

“You didn’t!?” she said eyeing me suspiciously.

“No, I didn’t” I replied. “I thought maybe you did?”

“Not hardly, my dear!”

“Well if you didn’t, and I didn’t, then who did?”

“Read the shipping label.” Carol said.

“Yeah right, okay.”

I read the shipping label and part of the mystery was solved. The label identified Small Dog Electronics as the shipper, and underneath that were the words: To Pete Miner, Compliments of My Mac Magazine.

“Well I’ll be a son of a…”

“PETER!” My wife cautioned.

“Sorry. But can you believe this, Carol? They sent me an iMac! A real honest-to-god, brand-new still-in-the-box, G3 screaming, blueberry-flavored iMac!”

“No, I can’t believe it. Why would they do that?”

“I’m not sure. But I’m gonna find out. I’ll call Tim.”

“Aren’t you gonna open it first?”

“Not till I talk to Tim. Who knows, maybe it’s a mistake and I’ll have to send it back.”

I called Tim Robertson, the owner and publisher of My Mac, but he wasn’t home, so I left a message. Five minutes later Tim hadn’t called back and I couldn’t take the suspense any longer. I opened the iMac box. I was as excited as a seven year-old on Christmas Day.

Later that evening Tim returned my call. By then the iMac was up and running and I had decided he wasn’t getting it back even if it was sent to me by mistake.

Tim assured me it was no mistake and proceeded to tell me what the magazine was doing in regards to this iMac giveaway. He told me that I was not the only member of the staff who would be paid a visit by Buster Brown’s UPS truck in the months to come and wished me well with my new computer.

So how cool is that? “Way too cool!” my 17 year-old daughter says and I have to agree with her. Way too bondi-blue cool!

This story was supposed to be about an upgrade that never took place. About my Performa 550 that I so badly wanted to upgrade but in the end really didn’t NEED to upgrade. I was going to compare what I can still accomplish with my old ‘030 machine to what I couldn’t accomplish had I bought a ‘386 PC machine 5 years ago. And how lucky I was that I went with the Macintosh. And I was going to tell you how much I still love that old 550 of mine.

But now…, now that I have this screaming iMac, who cares about that old bag of bones relic of a Performa! Not I. No sir, that thing can sit in a corner and collect dust for all I care! I’m in “speed heaven” and ain’t never looking back!

Not that the old girl will actually end up in a corner collecting dust. Nope. She’s still got some life left in her and will be moving to a new home to be shared between two of my daughters who live in separate apartments across the hall from one another. They’ll get lots of use out of her, I’m sure.

Pete Miner

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