Death by Windows updates

THE FIFTH COLUMN“Please do not unplug or power off your machine,” the screen read, which I took as a threat minus the “or else” bit, so I did what I always do when I receive threats and sat dead still while the machine got busy installing update 1 of 52 — a new record.

The threat came at an awkward time — the middle of the night — together with the sudden realisation that the baffling daily updates could be Silicon Valley’s dress rehearsal — their beta version — to reverse ageing, starting with my rapidly deteriorating Toshiba A40 series, which had installed five updates at that point. I was exactly 15 minutes older.

I sat back to consider the ramifications of eternal life and how that could be employed to decrease my monthly credit-card payments. I am 38 — a really shit time to stop ageing, considering that life starts at 40.

I realised, kind of alarmingly, how the technical assistants at Incredible Connection appeared to remain, if not vital, eternally young. Thin arms. Robust skin problems. Limp wrists. It struck me that the geeks could stop time itself if they put their minds to it, and that time indeed might stop for a man if he had a scraggly beard and a greasy pony tail running down his back.

I wondered whether the geniuses in California really thought this thing through. Whether they will put overpopulation next on their list of things to solve or, at the very least, change the brochure from “live forever” to “live on top of each other”.

The PC asked me to wait while it restarted and my thoughts turned to Violet Mosse-Brown (117), who became the world’s oldest person when Emma Morano (117) died recently. I wondered whether Emma might have lived longer had she used Windows 7, which hardly ever updates, instead of Windows 10, which updates almost daily. It was an interesting thought.

The laptop came back to life with a message that started off well enough, telling me it was busy “configuring Windows updates” and that it was “35% complete”. The tide turned at the end, unfortunately, with the direct order: “Do not turn off your computer”, which I obeyed without thinking.

I looked at the clock, which said 1am. I was exactly five hours older from when the ordeal started. I looked down at my arm. Old man skin. The screen went in and out of focus as delirium took hold. At 55% complete, I suffered a mild stroke, followed by a heart attack at the 75% mark.

I called family and friends with the sad news that I think I might be dying while waiting for my laptop to shut down. They rushed over and stood around me holding my hand as we all waited for the screen to turn to black. Instead it read: “Shutting down.”

I saw my soul leave my body from a vantage point a few metres away as my limp frame slumped forward on to the keyboard. The paramedics arrived a little while later, so I was told, and rushed me to Groote Schuur where they brought me back to life. The doctors gave me one year to live.

Sad, they said, considering life starts at 40.

JS Smit

JS Smit

JS Smit is a Cape Town-based freelance writer. Formally trained as a copywriter, he took a break from ads in 2010 to write a blog for the Mail & Guardian's Thought Leader and since 2015 has written for the Mail & Guardian. Read more from JS Smit

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