Monday, June 13, 2005

It’s all relative 

“One to collect, one to deliver”

A smiling delivery driver stood on the doorstep, with a large cardboard box in front of him. I had a matching box parcelled up ready by the door.

“Oh, good… you’re not like normal people” he said cheerfully.

I laughed. “No, no, I’m not normal. You’ve noticed, then?”

He wasn’t phased by the twist I gave to his words.
“Most people wouldn’t be ready like that, they’d still be faffing around packing up.”

The box contained my first-ever eBay purchase. After it had given nearly ten years of sterling service, I’d eventually decided to retire my archaic 120MHz Pentium I Windows 95 PC. I only used this as a second PC for internet browse and email, but without the ability to run a modern browser or Gmail it was becoming less and less useful. I toyed with the idea of putting Win98 on it, but that seemed likely to be like putting new wine in old wineskins, as the Biblical metaphor has it. A brand new PC was out of the question, so it was eBay to the rescue.

eBay is stuffed full of old PCs, and because there are so many they don’t command the crazily high prices that some items seem to go for. Definitely a buyer’s market. This one came from a reseller of ex-corporate PCs - a 600MHz PIII from Fujitsu-Siemens for £60, complete with bona-fide copy of Windows 2000 and a 30-day warranty.

Just one little snag though - the thing didn’t work. No sound of a fan, no hard disc spinning up, no sign of life on the monitor, but taking the side panel off showed a glowing LED on the motherboard, so it wasn’t completely dead – just very sick. I was on the phone to the seller, when with perfect timing there came a load crack – sufficient for him to hear - and a large puff of smoke out of the power supply. I thought that kind of thing only happened in the movies – things don’t really blow up, do they? Not bangs, smoke, and all? There weren’t any flashes though – I suppose that’s where the movies depart from reality.

That warranty turned out to be important. To give the guy his due, he replaced the computer, collected the dud one, with no quibbles whatsoever, within 2 days. He said that in four years of running this business, that was the first time anything like that had happened, and I believe him.

So I’m a very satisfied customer. For £60 – okay, plus £17 delivery and another £10 for an extra 128Mb RAM – I now have a second PC running an up-to-date OS, Office XP and most of the software I use on the main PC (which is an Athlon 1800).

It may have been someone else’s cast-off, but next to the old relic I used to use it’s a giant leap forward.

It’s all relative.

I will admit though to a twinge of sadness at parting with an old friend - its last few years of performing only light duties had been like having an old horse put out to grass. But now, having stripped out its only worthwhile vital organs - the second hard drive and the network card - it's not even fit for the knackers yard. Just a pile of scrap metal and plastic.

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