Life I have friends whose identity is tied up in the fact that they live on the bleeding edge of technology. They always have the latest gadget. Their lives are one continuous upgrade cycle.
While I have plenty of very modern technology lying around the house, my relationship with technology is quite different than these upgrade addicts. I savour the challenge of getting the most out of tech well past its due by date. I keep technology long after most people relegate it to the back of their cable cupboard or flog them on eBay, and because I end up using this kit for years, I develop a relationship with my most beloved bits of tech. Besides, sufficiently old tech develops a kind of personality, certain quirks or, let’s be honest, faults that feed the human compulsion to anthropomorphise.
In August, I opened a personal time capsule full of things I hadn't seen it in nearly a decade, since I moved from the US to the UK. Scattered amongst the books, CDs, bookcases and my bicycle were aged and obsolete tech bits and bobs, including one of my most beloved antiques - a vintage Mac SE/30, and I very much hoped that it had survived its long period of hibernation.
In 2005, I moved to London on what I thought would be a year long attachment from my job as the Washington correspondent for what was then called BBC News Online. I put all of my worldly belongings - not much to be honest - in a five by ten foot storage locker in suburban Maryland. That was more than nine years ago, and it was only this August that I finally liberated everything I had stored there.
In it, I found an old TV monitor, a six-head Toshiba VCR, an Onkyo turntable and my Mac SE/30. The TV monitor is in the garage waiting to be recycled. Neither the turntable nor the VCR work, but I didn't even wait until I got to my new home to see if the Mac was still with us. On a stopover at my parents, I took it out from the moving van. After nearly a decade in storage, it fired up without a hitch. It did take a little more effort to keep it working reliably, but now it's back in fine fettle.
The story of my Mac begins in the student computer labs at the University of Illinois. I first got onto the internet on a Mac SE/30 and wrote many of my college papers on it. But I never owned one. They sold for thousands of dollars then, and while the stars in media make hundreds of thousands of pounds or dollars, and that was well beyond the budget of a journeyman journalist.
Six or seven years later, I had moved to Washington DC to work for the BBC. For some reason, someone left an orphaned Mac on my back porch, a Mac SE. It started up, but flashed the missing disk drive sign. After a little research online, I found that that the recommended repair for the Sony hard drive in it was to remove it from the computer, hold it about three or four feet off the ground and drop it. I am not kidding. The logic of this repair was that the drive would seize up, something called stiction, and the drop was just enough force to free up the drive mechanism. It was good advice, and once I put the drive back in the Mac, it started up much to my surprise although it didn’t generate a lot of faith in its longevity.
I gave that computer – with a new hard drive – to a friend, but then I wanted one of my own, and for my 30th birthday, I found a Mac SE/30 on eBay not for thousands of dollars but for about $30, not including shipping. This one came in a lovely carrying bag. It was a luggable and had been used by someone who worked for an insurance company who schlepped it from client to client. It's hard to believe that this is what passed for a portable computer back in the day. It weighs something like 8.8 kg.
You might wonder why I have such affection for a computer that has hopelessly out-of-date versions of modern software – Photoshop, Word and even WordPerfect. For one, I love writing on it. The keyboard is one of the old mechanical types that gives off a solid thunk when you hit the keys. The old word processing apps - Microsoft Word 5 for the Mac and WordPerfect 3.5 - are a joy to use. They do just about everything you'd want without a lot of the useless features that have crept in over the years.
More than that, I love writing on my Mac because there are far fewer distractions. I don't have message, email or Twitter notifications popping up to break my flow as I do on my MacBook Pro, and the nine-inch black and white screen draws me in. There isn’t enough screen real estate or enough computing power to have six or seven apps open that I can obsessively tab through. It is online, but opening a modern web page is glacial so there isn’t much temptation to nip off and check my email or do some online Christmas shopping.
But it’s more than that. From the first time I used one more than two decades ago up until now, I find something incredibly intimate about this little computer. From the moment the old smiling Mac icon pops up on the screen, it really does feel like a personal computer. Long before Siri was on the scene, Steve Jobs and his team could trick you into feeling that technology had a personality bordering on humanity.
That is a real achievement. Most technology is utilitarian. They are tools we use, but even amongst all of my devices, I never developed the kind of relationship I have with this old Mac, and it has been great to rekindle my friendship with this tiny, luggable, huggable computer.
You can follow Kevin in Twitter @kevglobal.