Monday, September 27, 2010

Tribute to the Dell Inspiron 5150: My first laptop!

Setting the Stage:

It was the month of July in 2004. Almost 2 months since I was in the United States, on an official assignment for my earlier company – Infosys. The quiet town of Middletown in Connecticut was my first real life experience into the American neighborhood and way of life after having seen it and secretly wished to be there in those numerous English movies. The world was changing then.  Though the long distance international calls over the telephone were still a tad expensive, the explosion of the power of internet for VOIP, voice and webcam chat was well under progress. It is during this time that I needed a way to communicate with my family split across Asia (India) and Europe (UK), while I was in America.
My companion during my sabbatical
The option for a desktop computer was ruled out even before consideration as the visibility for my official assignment was not more than 6 months. The pains of trying to take it back to India or finding a buyer who can buy it were ones I did not want. So I decided to buy a laptop. Had never aspired to buy one that desperately while working in India, but now seeing the necessity, I thought – Why not?
It was time for my second purchase in the US (post my Digicam) and the research started. The numerous visits to website and brands and the features of the machines started.  My life after office work revolved around Hard Disk Drive capacity, RAM Capacity, ability for wireless internet etc. Soon enough, me and another friend cum colleague of mine - Gyan, decided to buy the robust Dell brand – known for its sturdiness and value for money features. After doing research and the various brands available – I finalized on the Inspiron 5150 Model of Dell and loaded it with all the best features I then could (including Wireless Network Card, a 15.4 inch screen, 40 GB Hard Drive, 512 MB RAM, Intel chipset). It totally cost me USD 1456. 

The painful wait for “Union”:

In Norway - ready to be a companion to my spouse
I eagerly waited for a week for her to arrive, to have the first glimpse, the first touch and the first feel. I almost infuriated the apartment support staff in Hunters Colony where I resided checking each day if a parcel for me at 41 Hunters had arrived. Though the online shipping status showed it in transit, something in my heart said that the status might not be updated yet, but she would be there waiting in the small room stacked amongst other boxes – waiting desperately for me to lay my arms on her. Then after the fifth day of ordering – she had finally arrived. My heart knew no boundaries and was overjoyed. I brought the box home and unwrapped the contents with the utmost care. Then wrapped inside white crepe paper, I slid her out with the most delicate moment of my hands and my heart almost cried out when I saw her top lid with the galvanized blue coating that was split horizontally into two by a  straight line of steel with a circle in between saying “Dell”. It was love at first sight.

The good times:

One of the numerous movies watched on her
Once she was unpacked, it took time for her and me to know each other. We did it the right way, now when I look back. I was not desperate to force her onto things. We took it step by step. She needed to know a lot about me – a login name and password, which gave me private access to all that we had in between us during our relationship, a disc of other softwares that I could install on her so that the needs that she can’t fulfill herself  - can be fulfilled by someone else. Once she was setup totally and our trust established – we had  a joy ride. We had our dates almost every day in exotic locations like Google, Yahoo, Deals2Buy, EdealInfo, TimesofIndia, Rediff and host of other sites. We networked a lot with her other family members spread across the globe through our high speed internet and exchanged web pages, images of happenings the world over and some cookies that we could much on when were hungry and skipped authentications. When I was feeling low, she used to sing out the loudest through her speakers, reading whatever she could find in her playlist in Winamp and make me feel better. When I was excited and want to celebrate – she shouted out loud the peppiest of numbers to further add to my happiness. She was frank enough to admit that she couldn’t directly carry my voice or video to the external world. The gracious lady that she was – she offered me two ports, where I could plug a handicam and mike to speak to family and friends across the globe and see them.  I don’t think she needed letter of references from these devices in the form of a software install to ensure they work on her. Her all encompassing compatibility with host of hardware devices easily allowed these devices to “Plug and Play”.  We also ended up in watching a lot of movies / documentaries. Though she could not remember all of the movies in the world – she liked crunching onto a VCD/ DVD that I fed onto her mouth through a DVD drive and while she crunched and spun it in her mouth for proper digestion – I could in the meanwhile watch the movie on her 15.4 inch display screen, shielding the moving from other prying eyes around me. Being hidden behind the laptop screen is a boon in disguise for a lot of folks who share apartments with roomies and gives an opportunity at times to skip critical tasks that you are required to do as a part of your share in living together. 

For the last 6 years – the number of movies I have seen on her would have outnumbered the total no. of movies I would have watched anywhere else in my life. 

Adding humor to our miserable lives:

Caught red handed in each others company!
Weighing close to 7 kgs, she was not lean in any way. She was bulkier as compared to other cousins (read laptops) like the Samsungs, HP’s, IBM Thinkpad’s.   She had no intentions to loose fat or alter her appearance, as she felt comfortable in her skin. I accepted her as she was and have no regrets for not choosing a leaner black Thinkpad which looked more like a iron tin box that could store rusty screws or a Samsung whose mouse was as untrustworthy as the Indian politicians – toggling their locations on screen when there was no movement of the hands on the mouse, just like politicians switch parties for no real reason.

To cool her brains (processor), there was a fan at the bottom.  Most of the times since she mostly graced my laps or the pillow on my lap, the fan never got a chance to vent out the outburst (heat of the processor) that was generated day in and day out. Due to this, the heat slowly spread throughout her base, which heated her up real bad – red with anger. As a result, when it was too much for her to handle – she used to quietly display on her screen that it was a high temperature and she was shutting down for sometime. She used to politely request that if there is anything blocking the fan vent – to unblock it. After realizing this for the first few months, I felt bad and guilty and asked god –
 “Why is she called a laptop when I can’t have her on my lap?”
“ Why does this happen only to me or my beloved ones?. I can’t stay separated even an inch from her”

A part of the fun in MBA school!
To this, something in my mind said “Son, if you both want to mutually co-exist, its necessary that you give her space in this relationship. If you are too close, you will burn your balls” Now when I look back, the thought could have come from God through my mind. I philosophized and decided it is not wrong to give her “Space”. Hence from then on I started keeping a book below her, so that she was not only balanced on a flat surface, but there was also open spaces below the fan (where the book couldn’t reach) – so that all the heat generated could immediately go into the environment. This proved to be a master stroke and no wonder my “Heating Bills” in the snowy months of November – March for 4 years in the US never peaked high. My friends used to chide me saying “Now that you have Dell, your heater bills will be less” and laugh out. Or some used to say – “Why don’t you invert your laptop with the base up, so that while her base is all hot and fired up, I can break this egg and create a quick omlette on her” and burst into a silly laugh.  Her self deprecating humor in showing off her heat made all those friends and well wishers of mine forget their sorrows for a moment and laugh out on her and made her “the butt of all jokes”.

Doing some serious stuff on her, while in UK
Then there was the other humor about her weight. There was a time when lots of laptops in our neighborhood were getting stolen. In a week once we lost 5 laptops of friends and colleagues living around Hunters, which was a record. People started double locking their doors or some even started keeping valuables like laptop into their suitcases and then locking and tying the suitcase with chains and putting long sheets of clothes on top of it – to make it look like a seating area. It was then that there was as wisecrack who said “Lets shift with Deepak, so that our valuables are safe. When a thief comes and tries to steal his Dell laptop, the thief will burn his hands with the heat and will sag with the weight. He can even trip and fall on the laptop and be caught!” and burst out immediately laughing.
When some of my roomies started getting the Thinkpads, the Apples and the HP’s, they used to make fun of her saying “One day when Deepak is married and has kids. His kids will ask – Dad what is that thing that looks like a laptop, but so huge and lying around in the house? Some of our friends came home today to play and when we showed them this, they got scared and ran away”
Some others used to further be kind, yet poky and say “Years down the line when there is a museum built to show the historic evolution of computers, like the “National History Museums” shows the evolution of living organisms, this Dell laptop will show the emergence of laptop in the twenty first century. So you will be making tones of money by selling this to a museum Deepak!”

Commemorating over 6 years of togetherness:

On the eve of the bday, sleeping next to her
Dad playing a computer game, in Mumbai, India
This July 2010, I completed 6 years with her. In these six years my Dell has not only been in USA, but partnered me in the journey across geographies and my life as well.  Born in Malaysia and branded in US, she was at ease in India where I took her for vacation or for good. She was with me when I was working from Infosys Pune in the rainy months of 2006 and also came back with me happily during my MBA in 2008. She also enjoyed her time in UK and in 2009 when I travelled to Norway, I chose her over the Sony VIAO  (my second laptop till date, which I got about 2 years back while in B-School). She has not only seen me being promoted in Infosys from Software Engineer to Programmer Analyst, but also allowed me to write my resignation letter on her when I wanted to quit Infosys. She was eager to help me prepare for my applications for MBA or the GMAT exams, but was also a part of my MBA course throughout.  She not only was instrumental in helping me work on my TCS application forms, when I got through post MBA, but at times, she helped me work from home while in TCS.  She has also seen me get promoted this week to the next level in TCS. She has been magnanimous enough to get connected to my TV set to display movies that are played on her hard disk while in US, India through an S-Video cable.  I chatted  (text, video, voice) on her backyard using enablers like yahoo chat, google talk etc. with friends, relatives, prospective brides and also viewed their photos. In a way she was also instrumental in helping me find a life partner through an online portal. I have learnt the tricks of the stock market and invested in IPO’s and stocks using the browser on her back. She has also been with me when I had a taken a sabbatical from work in 2006 to prepare for GMAT. She was the only one with me in CBD Belapur, listening to the quietness of the house and the gushing of the waterfalls. We were both preparing for GMAT. I read the recipies on her screen to prepare the most exotic of cuisines or plugged her onto the power socket in the airport to spend time accessing the internet, while we waited for our flights back to India. I blogged and opened up to the online world only through her. In fact most of the blogs on this website between 2004 and 2009 were written on her.We also played a lot of computer games one her.

Mingling with other women:

Knowing the times my Dell has spent – lying on my tummy when I used to doze off watching movies in the US or getting my first touch in the morning when I used to switch my laptop on before opening my eyes or brushing my teeth, she indeed warmed up nice to the other women in my life – my wife.
When I moved to Norway and my wife joined me, I used to travel regularly outside of Oslo and Norway.
She also mingled with my friends
During those lonely times in a lonely place like Norway where we knew no one, she gave unhindered support and company to my wife throughout. I knew that while I went out, I could count on the Dell to take care of my wifey.  My wife though used to poke fun at times on her initially, over a period of time melted and enjoyed her company. She kept her as lean as possible by cleaning up all the things that made the Dell slow. And together they laughed out loud while watching “Sex and the City”, “How I met your mother” or other such programs / movies in the emptiness of Waldemar Thranesgata 11.
A pride of our parties in US

She has also been equally kind and nice to my neice Sanjana by allowing her to watch “Bee”, “Incredibles” and a host of other animation movies / cartoons in London / India.

The True Survivor

The world has been through two World War’s. The Dell has seen two such crises in her life in 2006 and 2008.

Good old times
This is a true life incident. There was some issue with the design of the Dell Inspiron 5150 laptop. An issue so serious that class action litigation was filed in the US. There were complaints from users that the laptop heated up a lot and at times burnt thighs and other parts of people. There were some cases of batteries exploding while users were working on the laptop. As a result of this, Dell was made to give a 1.5 year service vendor during which – irrespective of the warranty period of the laptops of this model, Dell had to service it with parts replacement etc. for free of cost and also give free pick-up and delivery of the laptop.  During my second trip to the US in 2006, she started having some problems. There were ulcers in her mouth which was reflected with the bad behavior of the CD rom drive. There were also some issues on the display or motherboard, which I do not remember. I was worried and hoped she pulled through. I immediately punched the 911 (Dell Helpline No.) and was delighted to know that she could not only be cured immediately, but for no cost. The Dell helpline swiftly arranged for DHL to act as an ambulance and there was a stretcher (cardboard box) on my door step the next day. I packed her with the utmost care and also covered her with crepe paper and thermocol around to ensure there were no vibrations that impacted her. I got her back in eight working days. Those eight were the worst days of my life, waiting for her to be cured and come back to me. I was worried if she was meted the right treatment in the hands of the strangers, but since they were her alma mater, I tried convincing myself to wait patiently.  She was finally back and not only working like before, but also cleaned and looking much brighter and working much faster! I couldn’t help observing new plastic sheets near the mouse pad and on the blue galvanized outer coating, that were put to avoid dust sticking onto her. I let them stay on for years from then on, till one fine evening in 2008 I peeled them off as the cover had real gone dusty and bad.

Sleeping with her, next to me
The next heartbreak came in 2008. All was going on well between us. My B-school assignments, class presentations, in school assignments were all on her. She was also a critical part of my placement committee work and most of the emails/ planning were done on her.  In September of that year suddenly one fine day – the unexpected happened.  Her hard disk drive crashed. I tried everything I could to retrieve her. Tried booting in safe mode/ use DOS to log in just hours before the indications of crashing. Nothing worked and she was zonked. I felt bad and worse. She was my first major investment in my life in the US and how could I let her go? Also because of lack of computational power, my B-school work, placements work all got impacted. Life was harder than I believed it was. Thankfully I got a spare Dell laptop from my roomie Deepankar, which helped me pull through those days. Thanks to my brother in law (bil) Mahesh, I got her fixed with better hard drive and RAM from bil’s office. But when she came back, I was so glad. I didn’t care the data I lost when her hard drive crashed. Though data can never come back and impacted me to some extent, I still had her back! She was also in for a surprise after coming back. While she was away, I got infuriated of the spare Dell laptop, which though was doing its best to support me, still felt short. I finally decided with a heavy heart to think of alternative laptop. Though I had a desire to buy one for long, I did not really want to upset her. Finally now being a chance, my mind thought through and thought she would do good with some company. After all even she knows that when she is not around there is someone who needs to take her role. Instead of spare laptops from other places its better to have one in the family. This led me to buy the Sony VAIO. Though Dell was back, she was still amicable and went along well with the VIAO. They exchanged numerous files with each other and enjoyed sitting next to each other and network with each other through the internet.

Laptopping even before brushing teeth!

I have seen many friends who changed their laptops like babies change nappies. At first even I felt like doing the same, but then thought of the good times that I had shared with her. Just because there is someone better, faster and sleeker available, does this mean I ditch her and move ahead? When will I stop to wander my philandering wishes if I am always inspired and instigated to buy the latest machine? After brooding over this, I decided – It has to be her or no one. Come what may – through the “Heating” problem and “Weight” issues – we pulled through. Cos she is heavy, at times my back ached during those walks through the gravel footpath from my hostel to MBA classes at SPJIMR or during the times I carried her across airports, bus travels etc. But in the end if you really love someone, it is never a burden as your love overcomes the challenges and increases your endurance.
Even now, she is there with me as I write this tribute to her. She is lying on top of a book, with enough exposure for her fan. Though I don’t switch her on always, she still has power going onto her all the time and she keeps blinking, as if keeping an eye on me. In this lonely house in Stavanger, when I long for companionship or the presence of familiarity – the very fact of just running my eyes over her is very re-assuring.

Some say – “Buy a Dell and go to Hell” and I say ‘Bought my Dell and love her like Hell”.


Vishius said...

Dude .. Meenakshi ki souten bana diya tune lappy ko

Atreya rocks said...

:) Sandy