Why I'm afraid of Frankenstein

Sometime this evening, Barry will give birth to a monster. Its name: Frankenstein.

It’s time for a new computer, so after shopping around, he decided to build it himself. The good news is, we won’t have to share the computer any more. The bad news is, the size of the junk box will not be diminished, because he’s had to order all the parts.

My computer-geek’s junk box is a scary place. We used to have it at our house, and the contents spilled over and crept out to take over part of a room. There were the usual RS232 cables, 9-pin connectors, and grubby mousies and pads. I once counted eight CD-drives — not CD burners, but plain old 2X drives. Not a single one of them worked.

When we moved out of the house and got rid of our stuff, Barry had to clean out his junk box. Despite the fact that none of the stuff worked and most of it was five years out of date, he had an emotional time going through the box. One of his favorite SCSI converters became a Christmas ornament, because he couldn’t part with it.

The junk box only stayed empty for a year. Last year, he started accreting again. “I’m going to Paris,” said Mo, “Do you want to take anything from my junk box?” Barry’s eyes lit up, and the next thing I knew, we were carting home a free Gateway computer and a 10-port hub. When we got home, the Gateway wouldn’t boot.

Next, we ordered a wireless keyboard from the internet. I was excited about improving the laptop’s ergonomics: Look, Ma, I can sit all the way across the room and type! The problem? I type too fast. First, the keyboard would have a tantrum and start throwing words and letters around the screen. Then, if I didn’t slow down, the screen would go blank. The cheap keyboard had mis-sent some combination of keys, so Word deleted my entire document AND emptied the recycle bin. This sent me into a major tantrum, as I struggled to maintain my composure and not throw the offending piece of cheap Chinese hardware across the room at the offending laptop. Like an incontinent puppy, that keyboard was sent to the garage.

Last week, I decided to fire up our extra computer, a really, really old Mac laptop. I plugged it in and turned it on. Nothing happened. “No, no, don’t take me to the garage! Oh noooooo, Mr. Bill!” Out it went, into the junk box.

One reason this stuff accrues is that in Seattle, you have to pay to get rid of old computer parts. The lead content is so high, it’s against the law to put them in the garbage. I steadfastly refuse every freebie that comes my way for fiscal reasons, but Barry insists that some of the stuff will work and be useful. Someday.

Maybe someday is here: Barry’s expecting to build his new computer tonight. He’s calling it Frankenstein, and he plans to keep the cost low by building it himself.

I’m afraid of Frankenstein, myself. Not that I expect it to go on a rampage, rape, and pillage. I’m simply afraid that when it’s all done, the dreaded junk box will be bigger, not smaller. For me, the real monster is the ever-growing pile of computer junk.

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