I got a new power brick for my iBook the other day, and the new battery should be shipped as soon as I resolve a credit card issue with the vendor. All the fun I’ve been having with my computers lately makes this an appropriate time to tell this story.
My first encounter with a Mac was 1985, when we replaced our VT100-clone terminals (connected to a VAX) with “Fat Macs.” Those were the ones with a whopping 512K of RAM, a seemingly-extravagent amount of memory for those times. The trend of the time was decentralization — throwing off the tyranny of IT (which was “MIS” in those days) and taking care of our own needs. I’ll write more about our motivations, and the trade-offs we accepted, some other time.
As I’ve said in the past, my relationship with the Mac was not exactly love at first sight — while I loved having “my own computer,” I chafed at its limitations and propensity to crash. But it was new territory, and I forged ahead to see what it could do. Sometimes, being a day ahead can make all the difference between the “Mac Guru” and the befuddled co-worker.
I’m not sure when the spooky stuff started. First, I would figure out a pattern of non-intuitive clicks and keystrokes that would untangle a snarled program — normal enough for a button-pusher. But then, problems would go away as soon as I touched the keyboard. Then it started happening when I talked to the “owner” on the phone. But the craziest thing was when people told me they could get things working right by threatening to call me!
I’m a fairly rational guy, for being a Christian. I believe that there is an order to things, even to the supernatural — but I also believe we haven’t quite nailed down the natural order, and don’t have a clue about the supernatural. So I’ll admit that it made me a little uncomfortable when touching a computer, or someone invoking my name over it, would make it start working right. But time went on and I found other work, at a place where IT didn’t need a faith-healer, and it became a joke of sorts.
So a few years back, the people that eventually became our renters asked me to check out their daughter’s computer. It was an early Pentium-based Aptiva, with “soft” power (like many computers nowadays, it can be turned on or off by software). So I came by, and the daughter showed me the computer. Sure enough, it wouldn’t power on. I disconnected everything and pulled the cover off, thinking I might find a blown fuse. Not finding one, I told the kid, “Sometimes you can just lay hands on the motherboard” — doing so — “and say, ‘BE HEALED!’” She laughed. Then I plugged everything in, hit the power button, and it started right up.
“You weren’t kidding!” she gasped. She was almost as surprised as I was. (Most likely, unplugging the power allowed the startup circuitry to reset, and I told her that.)
What allows me to laugh it all off — even when I recently learned that people still use my name to make their computers straighten up — is that it doesn’t seem to work on my own gear. Then again, when I have a problem, it tends to be a big one — often requiring a new power supply, or rebuilding the hard drive. Maybe it’s a case of the shoemaker’s children going barefoot. Or maybe God is just reminding me that I’m really not all that.