The Changing Face of Computers

Years ago in college interactions with computers took place in special facility, climate controlled and populated by men in white lab coats.  Computer facilities had an air of a scared, hallowed, and special place where through the high priests of the computer facility you could submit your punch cards to run whatever program you had slaved over creating.  Now fast forward to today, computers are ubiquitous, even in the refrigerators at the Painted Pony Resort.  There is talk of the internet of things whereby all our handy appliances will be in communication with each other.  But what happens when your computer goes down and you live in a very rural environment?  This happened a couple of weeks ago when the hard drive on the desktop computer went south.  Knowing the utility of having backups, out came a little netbook which served as a functional backup for a several days.  Then suddenly it too took a nose dive,  a complete recovery of the netbook operating system was useless, it too was no longer functioning.  On to plan C, a very old and slow laptop running an early version of Windows XP.  Since guests were about to arrive and it was imperative that I have communication with the owner back east, the old laptop was the last hope.  After a night of work it was working, sort of.  It was possible to email, in a basic version of Yahoo mail, but nothing else was possible.

After letting the owner know of the communications problems he shipped an old laptop of his while I began investigating the desktop computer to get a list of parts needed for the repairs.  Having no place to work it was out to the open air garage when there was room to work on the desktop tower.  In contrast to the early college experience in the sacred halls of the computer facility, the garage is open to the elements, hot, and has a gravel floor.  So sitting on the ground with the desktop tower placed on top of some boxes and a handy leatherman tool the dis-assembly began.  Off with the covers and after several minutes with the air compressor the interior was clean.  Instead of grounding with straps and wires, I just held the metal case and stood barefooted on the gravel of the garage.  After identifying the important connections to the hard drive, out it came. 

Several days later, when the owners old laptop arrived it was online again to locate suitable replacement parts.  Of course in addition to the new hard drive a new operating system was required, so both Windows 8.1 and a new 2 TB hybrid hard drive were ordered along with cables to allow the installation of a solid state drive received as a Christmas present.  During this time guests came and went and cleaning the estate took up all the time, but eventually parts arrived via UPS and a day was taken to rebuild the desktop computer.  After installing the 2 new drives and loading a new operating system the desktop was up and running.  Loading the operating system as well as other programs on the solid state drive should decrease the amount of work the hybrid hard disk drive experiences and will hopefully lengthen its' lifespan.

Quite a change from the old days when computer access was a lab coat operation, now it is work on the computer where ever there is room, don't worry about climate control and the gravel garage floor will be suitable as workspace.  Special tools, bah, just whatever is in the tool box.

Now it is on to data recovery from the 2 old had disk drives.  Think I'll get the tractor and go out to grub some mesquite from the riverbed first.

repair in the desert
The desktop computer back in service with a 700-900 year old Tularosa fillet rim bowl sculpture on top
Addendum:  The cables arrived that allowed the transfer of data from the old hard drive to the newly installed hard drive.  Quite a relief and it was possible to recover all the photographs that were stored on the old drive so all the aerial photographs of the boot heel as well as hiking photographs are now safely recovered and stored.  The hard drive partition with all the programs was bad but the data on other partitions was fine which is what allowed the recovery.


  1. Only you could fix this I would have had to buy a new computer! I bet you feel great being on line again, and fixing everything.

  2. Thank you both. It was like some post apocalyptic scene working on this indispensable modern high tech device in the heat while sitting on the gravel floor in the wind.

  3. B Alvarius, the Genie Us (genius), rhymes and correct!
    You're a great asset to that owner!
    I remember being without Internet for a couple days here and it was really annoying. How much we depend on this technology!

  4. Thank you. I came here specifically to build a business and make the pie bigger in the valley, with the idea that everyone needs to make enough money to eat dinner. After a spectacular failure on my first attempt PPR seems to be working.

    I was surprised that my computer repairs were successful and the computer runs like a new one, especially booting up. Ten to 15 seconds after turning it on and it is ready to go.

    Even though we live in a very rural area (about 1 person/square mile) a computer with internet access allows socialization and interaction with others who live in the area who we see infrequently in person, which I see as a great plus in building the community. I'm the only person for several miles yet can catch up with current local events by logging in. I also find it interesting that guests are happy without phones or TV as long as they have internet access.

  5. There are several people who work here full time now since the Internet service is better. My old boss from Kodak could not believe we had the Faster Internet [I don't think its so fast now but that's another story] and his town just south of Rochester NY did not have the capability for that yet.

  6. The internet combined with the idea of a distributed network makes it possible to work full time from home in the San Simon Valley, allowing workers to produce and provide goods and services from from remote locations. Another big plus is the ability to ship materials in and out of your location. With UPS, FedEx, and Yellow Freight delivering materials to PPR the computer problems were resolved quickly as opposed to driving around southern Arizona and New Mexico looking for specialty computer parts. It is my belief that the internet is the most democratizing tool developed by humans - it has created a world wide marketplace of ideas and concepts where everyone can participate.

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