NEW YORK—Shortly after 9:30 p.m EDT on Monday, July 19th, Dell computer White Lightning was officially pronounced dead from owner decommissioning. Lightning, a Dell Dimension XPS T550 purchased for around $3,200 in July 1999, was just days away from what would have been its eleventh birthday.
During White Lightning's 10-year tenure, Bill Clinton was impeached, MySpace blew up, the Red Sox won the World Series, and owner Ken Devine got a girlfriend.
Devine maintains that Lightning had a great run, but he's alone in that sentiment. Every other person who has come into contact with the mainstay machine insists that it was a painstakingly slow death over the course of a decade where computer technology advanced by several leaps and bounds. In fact, family members attest that Devine's stubborn refusal to even consider replacing the sluggish dinosaur bordered on cruelty—more so, perhaps, to himself.
Yet critics agree that the 550 MHz has-been had a short stint of glory in its first year of existence, when 16-megabyte video cards ruled the personal-computing frontier, and 20 gigs of hard-drive space was much more than anyone would ever need.
Yes—people really lived like this.
No one's sure how, but White Lightning managed to run on the Windows 98 Second Edition operating system all the way until late 2006, when a freak system-file deletion wouldn't allow Devine to re-enter Windows. A tech-savvy co-worker came to the rescue and bypassed Lightning's hard drive by adding a second one running Windows XP—an operating system already half a decade old.
Devine enjoyed the much-more-stable XP, but had his first realization that Lighting was behind the times when he received an iPod for Christmas in 2007. The portable music device was a fraction of the size of his computer, but at 80 gigs, had the storage capacity of four times more than his once-super computer.
After months of contemplation, Devine reluctantly decided on Monday that it was time to replace White Lightning with Black Thunder, a far-superior Dell machine configured by a pair of former co-workers who felt sympathy for Devine's situation. The duo was compelled to end the years of neglect after learning of Devine's surprising contentment with his long-running personal-computing history. Oddly enough, the speedy PC now adored by Devine sat in his closet for the past 15 months, just waiting for its chance.
"I just felt like it was time," said Devine on retiring his old friend. "Whitey was taking longer naps, and he just sort of gave up when I tried to watch videos on YouTube. I only saw a new frame like once every 15 seconds."
Devine revealed that the key to preserving such an antiquated computing device was a steady diet of program management and maintenance, particularly with nightly shutdowns.
But more than anything, an unprecedented level of patience.
"The good news is now I don't have to put my clothes away or make a sandwich while my computer is booting up," he said. "But I think this whole experience built a lot of character, both for me and White."
"I wouldn't change a thing," he added.
Lightning is survived by PC siblings Blue Bronco and Black Stealth, the latter of which has been in a coma for the past several months. Brother Red Bull passed away quietly in 2007.