Magic Machine


I’m one of those sickening loyal people. Not only about friends, but also regarding material objects, especially those I’ve traveled in (case in point–my1991 Honda Accord) or worked with.

That loyalty extends to my computer as well. So I have a confession to make. I’ve worked on the same PC for close to eight years. I’m on Windows 98. I use WordPerfect 6. I don’t have a CD burner and I don’t have plug-in for a memory stick. As my thirtysomething acquiring editor commented two years ago, I’m so old school.

In the past, employers would introduce me to new programs. From WordStar (remember that one?) to Word, from PageMaker to QuarkExpress, from floppies to LAN connections, from modems to e-mail. But being self-employed since 1996, I must now look to myself to make technological advancements. And sadly, in some areas, I’ve been largely frozen in time.

My younger Gen-X brother, who goes through technological equipment like toothbrushes, does not understand.

Is it because I’m cheap? (Yes.) Is it because I’m concerned about the environment? (A little, especially after seeing what those Chinese villagers have to do in destroying old computer parts.) Is it because I loathe change? (I don’t think so.)

I’ve always felt some disdain towards the belief that there’s some kind of magic in the externals–what computer you use, your software program, what room you write in, your writing schedule. After all, I cut my teeth as a journalist in a big room without dividers, sitting across from another writer, a good friend, who smoked. I couldn’t wait for my environment to be comfortable or quiet. I just needed to turn on my pitiful desktop air filter, get my thoughts in order, and then allow these organized thoughts move to the tips of my fingers.

And I’ve heeded warnings from colleagues such as Jervey Tervalon who wrote in his essay, "Literary Sharecropper" in the L.A. Weekly back in 2004: "My advice to those who want to write the Great American Novel? Keep the overhead low. Forget about that iMac with the 22-inch monitor; soon enough you’ll regret it, no matter how much you imagine it will improve your productivity. " I took that advice hard. Why spend that advance on technology, when you can use it for things like food and a roof over your head?

And last of all, I admit that it had become a point of pride that I had either written or edited nine books on a crappy piece of equipment. As if I deserved a badge of honor.

But finally, finally, I must say that I acquiesce. When I used Turbo Tax this year, my IBM computer monitor was so outdated that I could barely open the program. And when I did, it came out all distorted on my old monitor. I can’t download the latest Adobe Acrobat or some templates from Microsoft.

It’s really starting to affect work.

Laptops are not for me. I can’t stand the keyboard and the mouse pad is horrific. My husband says that when I type on my standard keyboard, my fingers move as if I’m playing a piano. (So those all of those years of piano lessons, didn’t go to waste!) I know that you can stick a regular keyboard onto a laptop, but why bother? And I’m very rough on my equipment, not good for the delicate construction of laptop computers. I like to leave the computer on 24/7, a practice I learned from my boss at a pr firm I used to work at.

So I need your advice. What kind of IBM-compatible personal computer would you recommend? And more importantly, what features? CD burner, etc. What gigabyte capacity? Help me, help me. And what do I do about all my e-mail addresses in Outlook?

And to my dear computer, manufactured by a company long out of business–what we had together was truly magic, but it’s really time for you to go now.


The beauty of the Japanese language is its onomatopoeic language. Say kuru-kuru three times fast. What does it sound like? Perhaps an old wooden spoked wheel going round and round? Or fishing line being released from around a rod? In fact, kuru-kuru means to turn, twirl, or go round and round. Kuru-kuru-pa, on the other hand, is a colloquialism meaning "crazy." It comes with its own hand gesture, too–use the same American gesture for crazy, twirling an index finger around the ear and then when getting to the pa part of the phrase, close the hand and open quickly, extending all five fingers. There you go. Apparently kuru-kuru-pa is no secret in the States–there’s an art-noise punk band in Philadelphia who has adopted the phrase as its name.

DID ANYONE SAY HAWAI‘I?: According to an entry on DorothyL, convention planners extraordinaire Toby and Bill Gottfried are considering a Left Coast Crime in Hawaii (either on the Big Island or Kauai) in 2009. Is there any interest, they ask? Well, as a person who just returned from Kauai on Monday, I would say a resounding "yes"! My ultimate dream to see a sea turtle up close was realized on this trip. Of course, bookstores are far and few between in Kauai, but Borders Kauai will be fully remodeled by September 2006. I picked up McDougal’s Honolulu Mysteries, edited by the late Glen Grant, at the Kauai Museum and am utterly charmed by these truth-based tales of a lone detective in Honolulu in the 1930s. If you are planning to go to Honolulu on vacation this year, I highly recommend you read these stories on the plane ride there.

I THINK I’M TIRED DEPT.: You know when you’re a little slow when an official New York resident beats you to the news about an article in your local paper. Some nice bits on great friends and literary heroes.

9 thoughts on “Magic Machine

  1. JT Ellison

    Naomi, whatever you get, make sure it runs Windows XP. A very smooth and easy OS.I have a Gateway that was custom built with a 19′ flat screen monitor, in black and silver, so it looks cool as well as being highly functionable. Go for the big monitor, and Gateway will customize your computer for you. They’ll ask you questions about what you want to do, etc. Easy.I’m being a traitor (DELL is here in Nashville, and I have a DELL notebook) but I really love my big computer!And Microsoft has a wonderful wireless keyboard and mouse that you can get for 50 bucks in any office supply store.

  2. Eric Mayer

    “I’ve worked on the same PC for close to eight years. I’m on Windows 98. I use WordPerfect 6. I don’t have a CD burner and I don’t have plug-in for a memory stick.”

    Holy cow! That’s me!!! (Except I use Word 97 or, more often, freeware word processors) And they don’t even make the kind of PC I use anymore either.

    My theory is that I don’t want to learn/monkey with new computer stuff unless I have to and, really, although my first Apple only held 5,000 words in memory which was annoying, every PC made since then does everything I need to do to write and then some.

    Sadly, old PCs don’t last forever. They’re eventually rendered obsolete and the fans get loose etc and then…well…with no CD burner or memory stick capability…all the more reason not to want to change.

    I hope you get some good suggestions. I’ve looked at PCs to replace mine and all it does is confuse me. Near as I can tell the cheapest bottom of the line models have a gazillion times more of all that stuff computers have than is necessary for processing words.

  3. Naomi

    How about that other Windows OS? I can’t remember the name of it now.

    And I thought Dells were pretty good.

    And Eric–we should form an obsolete computer writing club. Is there any hope for either one of us?

  4. Elaine

    Being a total computer klutz (just ask J.T.!)-I can only say that I have a Dell and I love it. Actually, I have two. One for writing (virus can’t catch me again!) and one for internut stuff. And listen to J.T. re the monitor thingy. 19″ flat is the best by far. I use Word as well – just don’t remember what year it is (maybe last year’s model?). See what I mean? I leave all this up to my daughter.

    An LCC in Hawaii? That’s being talked up again? Fantastic. I’ll be there. But,uh…Maui would be so ‘mo bettah’.

    Glad you’re home safe and sound…and tan!

  5. Eric Mayer

    “Windows 3.1? Yikes! Don’t tell me the user has actually written books on that.”

    Yeah…she has…not to give away any secrets. ..nobody’s supposed to notice I’m looking across the office here…

    Maybe a historical machine is good for historicals?

    Unfortunately the chisel on the printer wore out.

  6. Pari

    Naomi,I love my Dells (yep, plural . . . I got a laptop, too). They’ve been dependable and easy to use. And I do have Windows XP . . . . I think.


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