I got this HP620 laptop 5 years ago. The fan makes a lot of noise, the speaker doesn't work, the wireless network adapter turns itself off and sulks for random periods and I've reinstalled Windows 3 times. But we would have been truly lost without it.
Dan and I work from home, and as such have pretty nice laptops that fulfill lots of technical requirements. We didn't fancy dragging them through Asia for five weeks, so thought of a simple solution. I'd clean up HP as much as I could, bring that, and my Dad would just ship ours for when we arrive in Melbourne.
The charging cable broke on our second day in China, and the battery lasts for twenty minutes.
'Come closer,' HP croaked, beckoning me to his side. 'My time is almost at and end.'
'No HP. We can get you a new cable, it's going to be okay.' Tears welled up in my eyes. I wasn't sure I believed what I was saying.
'No my child. I'm ready to go. But listen carefully...'
'You can't go!' I cried out, 'We need you! We need the Internet! We need emails! Google Maps! I need to check on my business!'
'Shhh,' he soothed. 'You can use your phone. But heed my final words...'
'Most websites don't work on my phone,' I protested but he waved away my words with the last of his strength.
'I haven't much time left. 30 seconds, according to my battery warning. So know this...' He paused, and finally I stopped arguing, wiped my tears and leaned close to hear what he had to say. 'You've worked with technology your whole life. You've been around computers since you were twelve years old. And you still didn't back up anything on my harddrive. It'll all be gone and it serves you right. Now... I die.'
And he was gone.
Until we found a new adapter in a Chinese electronic market.
Was it too late? Was the problem worse than we imagined? I plugged it in, took a deep breath and powered him on. For a moment nothing, then a flicker... And the HP startup screen burst into life.
HP was back, though gradually grew slower and slower. He was a shadow of his former self.
About two weeks later, he flashed up a new message: 'This copy of Windows is not genuine. Please enter your activation key.'
The copy of Windows most certainly was genuine, which I tried to tell him, typing in the installation key I had used over and over again, but to no avail. Eventually a few weeks later, as happens with un-genuine copies of Windows, the desktop screen went black. The messages popped up more and more frequently, and each time seemed to use up all of the memory, grinding everything else to a halt.
When we arrived in Melbourne we relaxed. Because no matter how temperamental and bitter HP had grown in his old age, at least our sexy young laptops were on their way over via FedEx.
HP must have heard us rejoicing over their imminent arrival because he grew even more jealous and bitter, and refused to connect to any Wifi. Folders would take up to 30 seconds to open and the Windows validation warnings were almost constant.
Then FedEx rang. Two days after the expected delivery date. Our laptops were being held indefinitely in customs. Apparently, though it was indicated nowhere, customs will stop anything deemed a 'personal item'. FedEx sent my Dad the form, with 'personal item' already printed, to attach to the delivery, but still told us nothing. So in addition to collecting the laptops late, and bringing them to Australia late, they were now being held and no one would give me an ETA.
'So what do I do?' I asked the customs lady.
'I'm sending you a form. You'll need to print it, fill it in, scan it, along with your passport, your flight itinerary, proof of address, your great-great grandmother's full medical history, the names of everyone in your primary school, a record of all your college exam results, the receipt for every carton of milk you bought in Tesco since January...'
'I don't have a printer or a scanner.'
Not her issue.
'Just whatever you do, MAKE SURE YOU DON'T FILL IN SECTION 3.1. Do you understand?'
'Yes.' I glumly put down the phone.
We managed to assemble, print and scan everything required and sent it to her before 4pm that day. The next morning she emailed.
'There's been an error in your form. I've sent it in but it will almost certainly be rejected.'
Then why did she send it in? I had already guessed the error.
'You didn't fill in Section 3.1.'
I explained in an absolutely mammoth email that I had done everything correctly. No reply. So I sent another email asking should I resend it. No reply. So I rang. No answer. Eventually she said 'You'll have to wait and see what customs say.'
All of this must have cheered up HP a little, because he decided to start connecting to the Wifi again. I apologised profusely, realising that now we were truly reliant on him. Dan and I would have to share him for our respective jobs, which was less than ideal, but a good deal better than nothing.
Last week we even managed to fix the Windows validation error. Some Googling revealed the culprit was probably a Windows Update that had wrecked absolute havoc with Windows 7. I Googled, downloaded, prodded, turned it off and on again but nothing seemed to work.
'Have you tried the Microsoft help?' Dan asked. Silly Dan.
So when I wasn't looking, Dan tried the Microsoft help and got the whole thing fixed in a couple of hours.
Now other than the fan, the speaker and the wireless network adapter, HP works pretty well. Our laptops finally arrived, after 3 weeks, and I felt guilty casting him aside.
I'm pretty sure he still wants to just slip away peacefully and I'm refusing to unplug the life support. But he's a loyal laptop, and I have no doubt I'll be reviving him come December, for our trip back through the rest of Asia.