Matthew McAyeal is a writer from Portland, Oregon. His short stories have been published in the literary magazines "Bards and Sages Quarterly", "Fantasia Divinity Magazine", "cc&d", "The Fear of Monkeys", "The Metaworker", "Danse Macabre", "Scarlet Leaf Magazine", and "Bewildering Stories." In 2008, two screenplays he wrote were semi-finalists in the Screenplay Festival. This partcular story was originally published in the 2018 anthology "Fine Lines: The Writers' Mill."
My life has not been like that of a human. When I was born, I was considered a wonder. People were amazed by how much I could do. As I grew older, I could still do the same things, but people were less and less impressed by them.
My first owner was the bald man in the suit. For four years, I sat on his desk. He used me mainly for spreadsheets. My first ever task was to determine how much money the company could expect to lose as a result of the U.S. boycott of the Moscow Olympics.
Just outside the bald man’s office, there was the smaller office of the woman with the big frizzy hair and shoulder pads. On her desk was a typewriter. My life changed one time when the bald man was talking to her in his office.
“I saw this really amazing commercial during the Super Bowl,” he said. “There were all these brainwashed people staring at this giant screen with a Big Brother figure on it, but then this woman with a hammer runs in and smashes the screen!”
“Sounds like an ad for women’s lib,” she replied. “Does this mean you’ll be paying me more?”
“It was an ad for the Apple Macintosh, and I’m thinking of getting one.”
“Right, of course,” she said. “What was I thinking?”
“I’ll give you my old computer,” he told her. “You must be the last secretary in this company without a computer.”
“A computer?” she asked suspiciously. “What do I need a computer for?”
Nevertheless, the frizzy-haired woman’s desk became my new home. With my spreadsheets and word processing, I quickly won her over. Before long, she couldn’t imagine doing her job without me. But six years later, she was no longer impressed.
“I can’t believe I’m still using this old thing,” she grumbled while typing up the itinerary for the bald man’s trip to the newly reunited Germany. “I need a computer for the ‘90s!”
In due course, I was replaced by a Windows 3.0. No one in the company wanted me by this point, so I was donated to a nearby library. There, I was much beloved by the children. They used me to travel the Oregon Trail and scour the globe for Carmen Sandiego. But five years later, their enthusiasm had faded.
“This computer is so old!” complained a shrill girl with a “Rachel” haircut.
“Yeah, they should’ve replaced it long ago,” agreed a chubby boy wearing a Toy Story T-shirt.
This time, a Windows 95 took my place. The library gave me away, and my next owner was the freckled boy with glasses. Unlike my previous owners, he didn’t start off impressed at all and complained about my age almost from the beginning. At fifteen, I was now so old that I couldn’t even get much appreciation from someone who had never even owned a computer before. His disapproval only increased over the next four years.
“You should never have gotten me this old thing!” he whined as he typed up his homework essay on the ongoing conflict in Kosovo.
“Would you rather I didn’t get you a computer at all?” asked the lanky woman with red hair.
“Maybe not!” he replied. “If I didn’t have this, you’d have probably gotten me an iMac by now!”
Eventually, the lanky woman did get him an iMac. For the next twenty years or so, I languished in a dark basement. At the start of my life, people thought I was so amazing and useful, but now they thought I was only good for collecting dust. Occasionally, I saw light when someone entered the basement, but it was never for me. Their eyes just passed over me like I wasn’t there.
Until one day when these people started moving everything out of the basement, even me! By that time, the boy with glasses had long since grown up and moved out, and the lanky woman’s red hair had gone gray. It turned out she was moving into a retirement community, and everything she couldn’t bring along was being sold in a garage sale. I was placed on a table next to the iMac that had replaced me. When the potential customers came, they carried smartphones that made the iMac look antiquated! In this age, what chance did I have of being sold?
“Man, check out this classic machine!” said a bearded man wearing an Elon Musk T-shirt. “I haven’t seen one of these babies since about 1987!”
And then, he actually decided to buy me! Somehow, things had changed. I was considered older than ever, but somewhere along the line, it seemed my age had become a positive quality.