I am not a particularly brave person when it comes to technical "progress." For many years most of us were in the position of being our own I.T. Directors and the experiences seem to have left many psychological scars. Some of my son's early memories of his dad with a computer come from the times that he would venture into the studio only to find me down on the floor, under the desk, with the chassis of some tower-type computer wide open and me muttering and swearing under my breath trying to track down SCSI conflicts or issues with aftermarket memory modules.
In the earlier days of "computing" there were no real resources to consult on the web because the web didn't really exist for normal people back then. There was no recourse to go online and watch a video on YouTube because.....same. We learned by trial and error and via articles in printed magazines devoted to computing on various platforms. During the pre-historic days of computing the machinery was expensive and there were few people who could clearly claim to have "grown up" with the technology. In fact, there were far, far fewer people around who actually owned personal computers!
In those days new operating systems arrived on multiple floppy disks or, a few years later, on CD-ROMs. The process of updating a dodgy system was anything but straightforward and each upgrade came complete with incredibly frustrating, new incompatibilities. Many days of real work were sacrificed in the pursuit of just having a machine that would turn on and run with acceptable stability for even a day or so. In many more ways even the applications were fraught with perils galore. Imagine trying to figure out layers in PhotoShop for the first time after having used the program for several years before layers were even introduced! And no documentation. The book would come out months later...
Many machines were temporarily or permanently bricked after unsuccessful update attempts and no one was around to revive them. They sat as slowly deteriorating fossils of a time before ... support.
Damn. Those were bleak times. At various junctures I am amazed that we didn't toss our hands up and decide not to embrace the demonic compromise that was....computerization. It's not as though film didn't work!
But I mention all this so you'll understand that those early memories, like some childhood trauma, haunt me to this day. I've been running an iMacPro for about 1.5 years and it's been remarkably stable. It never crashes. But I try never to give it any reason to crash. I try to make sure than only the most pure electricity is introduced to its power cord, even if that means the children go shoeless and hungry. I never turn the machine on without touching the rabbit foots dangling next to one of the hard drives; just for luck. I talked to one of the product engineers and wrested from him information about optimal performance temperatures and so for the last 1.5 years I've tried to keep the temperature around the computer at 66° Fahrenheit. Plus or minus half a degree. Once a week we burn sage outside the studio door and chant positive mantras to the computer. And all this is part of our effort with an Apple computer product. Can you imagine what we'd have to burn to keep a Windows machine even marginally usable? It boggles the mind.
At any rate, last Fall Apple announced a big operating system upgrade. You could take your machine from "Catalina" to "Big Sur." Most of the benefits clustered around better security and better rejection of trackers and other forms of unwanted surveillance. Stuff/features that I value. I wanted to update right away but my computer therapist, my analyst and my psycho-therapist and my attorney all dissuaded me from the horror of being an "early adopter."
Stories were seeping onto the web about updated computers slowing down to a crawl. Or of updates just failing altogether. Most stories recounted what seemed like a dystopian landscape of disappointment. Centers opened up to deal with SUD (system upgrade depression). Expert Counselors from the Windows world could only suggest their favorite remedies to Apple users: Cold Dominos Pizza and Mountain Dew.
Since my wanton attraction to cars tossed my work schedule into a deep fissure and diminished my work reliance on my desktop computer to nearly nothing last week I decided that I'd take the leap. I would either end up renouncing the bane of the 20th century (computers) or be elated by new capabilities and speed. I didn't even want to consider that there might be middle ground. That the update might work fine but there might be no discernible performance differences.
I backed things up. I ran disk repairs on all hard drives. I pulled tons of trash off my internal SSD. I formatted a new, external SSD to run Time Machine and backed up all my critical files....again. And then, early Saturday when the bandwidth hog family was still slumbering away, dreaming of massive online multi-player games, I snuck out to the office and, making the sign of the cross over my heart many times (even though I am not Catholic) I pushed the right buttons, on screen, to begin the process. The upgrade to Big Sur. AKA: MacOS 11.2.3.
My anxiety was apparent from across the street. Dogs howled in fear. Birds fell dead in the street. I put down my mug of hot but un-drunk coffee and grabbed a handful of Xanax instead. And then I spent the next two hours blearily watching the little "progress" bar slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, make its way across the center of an otherwise black screen.
But....it was successful and everything is fine now and even my passwords and junk made it across the void. I'm breathing a sigh of relief and will probably have to take the rest of the week off to recover.
Maybe a retreat to one of those places where everyone meditates all day and no one speaks for a week.
Naw. I'd never make it.