Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit. But please, do yourself a favor. Don't listen to that guy in the computer store who tells you, "Oh, don't worry, the new one will work just the same as the one you had."
I collected a virus on my computer the other day, and when I couldn't get rid of it myself, I called my local computer store. I know the people there. I visit them once or twice a year, and I bought a new laptop just last month. (But the truth is, I prefer my desktop.) The guy who owns it is friendly and helpful. He doesn't focus exclusively on the 20-something crowd, and he's happy to spend a little extra time with a customer to explain how things work. And, perhaps most important, he doesn't look down his nose at people like me, who have a little gray hair on their heads (okay, a lot of gray hair) and are not MIT graduates (okay, who had trouble in high school algebra).
So I tell the computer guy on the phone what's gone wrong, and he instantly knows what it is. But it's not something he can help me with over the phone. I have to bring it in.
I unplug my computer and, on my way out the door, grab the old receipt from when I bought it. I notice the computer is four years old. Driving over to the store, I wonder, maybe I'd be better off getting a new machine, rather than spending money to fix this old one.
So I make this suggestion when I get to the store. It will cost between $125 and $150 to fix this four-year-old white elephant, my computer guru tells me. Or I could get a new one -- faster, better, with more more memory, more options, more capabilities -- for just over $600.
"Okay," I said. "But I don't need anything fancy. I mostly surf the net and use word processing. I don't need anything that will, you know, make the gunfire on my video game look more spectacular, with more realistic blood spurting out from the aliens I slaughter."
He laughed. "I get it," he said, "something simple."
"And, honestly, I don't want to have to learn a whole new system, either. I just want to be able to use it."
"Don't worry. The new one will work just the same as your old one. You won't even know the difference."
I go home happy, looking forward to an upgraded machine. I go back to the store the next day. "So, is there anything I have to know?" I ask.
"Nope," he said. "This will work the same as your old computer."
"What about hooking up the printer?" I ask.
"It will do it automatically," he replied. "Just go to your 'Start' button and follow the instructions."
I take home the computer and go to plug it in. The first thing I notice is that there are fewer ports on the back of the computer. There's one cable back there that I can't plug in, because there's no spot for it. But I try out the computer, and it seems to work. Still, I wonder, what's that orphan cable all about?
I go to the "Start" button to hook up my printer. I can't find the instructions the computer guy told me would be there.
So I call him up. First, he tells me not to worry about the missing port. That one is for sound -- and I've got the right ones. I guess he's right. The sound coming out of this new computer seems okay. But I'm still slightly unsettled about that cable hanging out there behind my computer desk.
He then leads me to the right place to hook up the printer -- I'm glad I called because I never would have found it myself.
We hang up, and I go back to start work. As I said, I mostly do word processing, so I call up one of my files -- and I don't have Microsoft Word, like I did on my old computer. I have something called "Libre." It looks completely different from what I'm used to, and also from what I have on my laptop.
So I'm back on the phone. "What's this word processing?" I ask. "I use Microsoft Word."
"Oh, you don't get Microsoft Word. You have to pay extra for the Microsoft Office Suite. This is what we give you instead."
"How much extra for Word?"
"It's about $130. But really, Libre works just the same. You won't even know the difference."
He then leads me through a swift introductory course in Libre -- which, of course, is entirely different from Word. It looks different. The functions are located in different places, It even saves files with a different label. He shows me how I can "trick" Libre into saving something as a Word file. But later, when I try to do it on my own, I can't make it work. I cannot save it as a doc file, or docx file, but only as something that looks like it's part of the Russian alphabet.
Then last night I went to the movies. When I got home I went to check my email. My computer was off. That's funny. I didn't turn it off. Had we lost power for a while?
I turned it on and checked my email. This morning the computer was off again, and later it shut itself off when I took a break to have breakfast.
Apparently, this computer -- this computer that will work just the same way as my old computer (despite having a completely different word processing program) -- has an automatic shutoff function. So if you leave the computer to take a bathroom break or get a drink, you have to be quick about it. No more malingering in the kitchen.
Right now I hate my new computer, and I hate my computer guy. I just hope I get used to it. I'm trying to look on the bright side. Who knows? Maybe the automatic shutoff will mean I'll take fewer, shorter breaks -- and I'll end up improving my productivity!