Commentary

The death of Penelope

As an English and Spanish double major, I do indeed fit the stereotype of technologically inept nerd who reads books instead of blogs. The only programs I really use are Word, iTunes, and PowerPoint if I have to. I enjoy distancing myself from technology, but also recognize my simultaneous dependency to it.

This was made painfully clear to me last week when my computer screen decided to quit working. I’m now hooked up to an external monitor, but I feel like I’ve just put a bandage over my USB port and am terrified that the rest of my computer will fall apart any day.

My laptop was a graduation present from my parents way back in 2005, and I decided early on that she needed a name. I thought through all my literary heroines and landed on Penelope, the wise Greek wife of Odysseus. Unfortunately, though the ancient Penelope was able to endure in perfect condition for the twenty years it took her husband to return from the Trojan War, it seems that my Penelope’s life is rapidly coming to an end.

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That said, I wonder how many people actually name their electronic appliances. I know several of my friends have named their laptops and even their ipods. This gives them personalities and takes them out of the realm of simple nuts and bolts running on electricity to a tool that we interact with. How often do I catch myself talking to the TV, my phone, and Penelope when I’m trying to solve a problem? A lot, actually.
We are social creatures, so the idea of not being able to interact on human terms with something that can at times seem very human to us, is a inconsistency that we try to correct by naming them, talking to them, yelling at them, and feeling protective of them when they are lost.

I felt an emotional punch in the gut when I realized that it is nearly time to replace Penelope, and then immediately felt foolish for being so attached to pieces of plastic and metal. Not quite the same as losing a pet or favorite pair of shoes, but nevertheless our electronics are more a part of our emotional lives than we realize.

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