Last October a certain person I keep mentioning in my blog came out to Seattle to visit. Right before he left Michigan, his computer blew up. It took with it Ed's daily routine. I believe our routine becomes our identity.
Ed lamented that he didn't have part of his memory because he relied so heavily on the computer and I think it's tempting to equate that feeling with losing the computer and the applications it provides. I'm wondering though, if this is just general habit and tool use.
What was utterly disconcerting for me this week was ... my computer blew up. Okay, they do that. And I felt like Ed did. But I got to go one step further.
Until this week, I picked it up. I turned it on and started launching what might be seen as identity-apps. These are apps that we integrate deeply into our routine.
Suddenly, I was Ed Vielmetti. I loaded Google Talk and Ed had it set up to auto load. So it logged on. I was Ed Vielmetti. Boy he has lots of friends. And I tried to find where I could log off.
It's actually kinda hard to log off Google Talk. But Google Talk was convinced I was Ed and wouldn't take no for an answer. I had this issue with del.icio.us and a few other apps.
The tool was that personalized. That not having it made me feel grounded. Having it misconfigured made me feel like someone else.
When I finally got my laptop in working order, I immediately went to the task of rebuilding it to my configuration. This involved applications, bookmarks, start up procedures, security settings, colors, account log-ins, tab sets, communications technologies, etc. I was shocked to notice how deep that customization went and how many applications it involved.
What really surprised me though, was Microsoft Office irrelevance. Our Office 2007 DVD from our Microsoft Action Pack was not available to me today. This meant I'd need to fly to San Jose without having Office. And I didn't really care.
Trillian, Freemind, Skype, Plazer were more important to me than Word! And why is this? Because we gave Outlook the boot at the beginning of 2007 and went to a Google platform. Oddly, when Outlook was no longer needed, the rest of Office became far less compelling.
Outlook, then, was an extension of my identity, but Word was not. It's likely that it never really was. This was actually a shock. I've found that recently, Office's useful apps to me have been Excel, OneNote, Groove, and Visio. Excel and Visio have been rapidly declining. OneNote and Groove are excellent and I do need them back.
Peer compatibility is the only real reason to get the rest of the suite.
So, again, it's interesting to see what I felt alienated not having, what was inconvenient and what I needed simply because peers demanded it. Which portions of the computer (my pictures, my tab sets, my bookmarks) I considered fully integrated into my self. Which were merely not available for a short time.
My hard drive is due to come back from the shop early next week. The doctors say they can extract my data from it. And then things will settle back into normalcy.
Blogged at The Alaska Airlines Board Room at SeaTac Airport in Seattle using Windows Live Writer