My desktop PC, Behemoth, died on Monday evening at about 5pm. The boot drive had become corrupted. Windows 10 wouldn’t load. The auto repair process was caught in a repeating loop. I was faced with the Black Screen of Death.
The panic monsters
I’ve been using computers for work and play (and to kill time) for 30 years. It’s true! I bought my first, an Amstrad PC1512, in 1991.
In all that time I’ve only had fatal issues three times – twice now in the last three years. The previous time, in April 2018, the hard disk seized up altogether and I had to pay a specialist to rescue what could be rescued. This time my first thought was: déjà vu. And then panic struck. I kept thinking of all the work I was in the middle of that I’d lost.
But it really wasn’t like last time, and a decent night’s sleep helped me drive the panic monsters back into their holes.
Unlike last time, I’ve been backing up as I go along. Not religiously, every time I close the computer down, but enough. A lot of my commercial work-in-progress is preserved in e-mail attachments. Much of my creative writing is on the laptop, or saved on-line. Unlike last time, too, I knew the hard disk was working even if I couldn’t access anything on it while it was Behemoth’s C disk.
When I bought it, ten years ago, it was the biggest and most powerful computer I’d ever owned. Behemoth seemed appropriate. All my desktop computers have had names. Not the Amstrad, but every PC since. How could I forget Lacy or The Welshman? (The Welshman had “ap Pow” scrawled across its front. Short for Lap Power, a now defunct computer company here in Sweden, but it looked to me like the Welsh patronym ap Powys, son of Powys.)
But computers are like dogs. They live computer years not human ones.Ten years is a long time in a computer’s life. Translated into human terms Behemoth was pushing 70, maybe 80. Even with the occasional new part, it was still singing its last song.
Tuesday morning I had it up on the diningtable, its sides off and its guts exposed.
With the previous Black Screen of Death in 2018, I had no way of looking inside the computer’s hard disks without running it. Now I had a hard disk docking station I could couple to my lap top. I removed Behemoth’s boot disk, plugged it into the docking station and bypassed the Windows boot files. All my documents, my photos, my downloads, my videos, all of them were still there. Undamaged.
It’s time to replace Behemoth. I have my eye on a gaming computer. Not because I want to play games, but because if you can play games on it you can also use it to process photos and videos.
I already know what I want to call it. Continuing a vaguely Biblical theme it’s going to be Little Moloch. That’s also a nod towards Terry Pratchett. In Mort, Death’s kitchen range had the words ‘The Little Moloch (Ptntd)’ embossed on its oven door.
Writing this, now, I’m already anticipating its arrival. I hope we get on.
Later: Saturday evening update
Little Moloch arrived. Or to be more accurate, I walked to the shop and fetched it home in a taxi. But my troubles were not over. First, the sockets for my monitor cables were the wrong shape, so it was back to the shop for adapters. Then I discovered the computer had no WiFi connection. No WiFi connection?!
The patient guy on the telephone in the shop’s customer service department assured me that most desktop PCs don’t have WiFi. (He didn’t say: Get a grip, old man, there’s no reason to get angry. Though he may have thought it.)
Back to the shop again for a dongle.
Then there was the joy of re-installing all the software. Do you still have all the serial numbers for all the different bits of software you’ve bought over the years? Can you put your hand on them, each and every one? I do, I can. Now I can.
Speak softly, but I think everything is working. It’s not quite perfect, but it has the potential to be. At least I can edit photos again and prep them for publication. This evening I was able to remove two temporary pictures from this post and replace them with the specially created images you see. Views of the (dusty) insides of Behemoth in the sun.
TheSupercargo’s Adventures in Computerland. How’s your week been?