Snap! Crackle! Panic!

I always use my Apple G4 PowerBook (now nearly four years old) when I teach. I use a data projector and it allows me to be very interactive with the students (“Let’s look that up on the web…”). This morning I was going through my usual setup routine about 20 minutes before class was to begin. Zap! My AC adapter was fried! I was on battery power.

My very first feeling was panic. I can’t teach. When my battery runs out, I have data and email I can’t access. I work a great deal at home. If it takes a while to get a replacement, I’m going to get behind in my work! OMG, it’s budget time!

After the initial adrenaline rush, I began to calm down. I’ve a desktop at work that replicates everything I need. I had handouts; I could teach without the computer for today. Oh! There’s an Apple Store just down the turnpike. Oh! There’s such a thing as UPS next-day delivery. It turns out the Apple Store had adapters for my model in stock; an hour and half round trip and I was home and back in business. Happy end. Trivial story from everyone’s life. True.

But as I was driving to the humongous King of Prussia mall, I reflected on the source of my panic. I’m a mature adult, veteran of many crises, great and small. Whence comes this powerful emotion?

In a word, dependence. Most of my daily life involves the computer and Internet in some way. I’ve been using computers since the late 1970s, and over that time more and more of what is important to me is enabled or enhanced by these technologies. Right now my wife Jean is in Salt Lake City on a business trip for the week. It makes a huge difference to get an email or a FaceBook “SuperPoke” from her several times a day. Very reassuring. Yes, there are other old fashioned methods of communication, but this way my communication with people around the globe is seamlessly integrated into my daily experience.

Dependence isn’t bad. Dependence on technology isn’t evil. We Americans are dependent on our vehicles. We learn the needs of our vehicles and if we take the time, effort and money to keep them in good repair, mechanical failures are rare or minor. The same with information technology. I learned a long time ago about the importance of regular backups. All my mission critical files and data exist in three separate physical locations and I dynamically sync up with all three during the day as I work.

I just hadn’t considered the potential for trouble by losing a simple power supply. I had been oblivious to the extent of my dependence on a working laptop in my life. That was what caused the panic. Inattention to how I am living. Now I’m thinking about what my other dependencies are.

I would have bought two power adapters today…except I plan to upgrade my computer this spring and I’m sure the connectors will be a different shape! When I buy this new laptop, I will definitely add a spare AC adapter! 😉

“Blessed is the pessimist, for he hath made backups!”

Published in: on March 13, 2008 at 8:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

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