Dear John ...

By Merle Harton, Jr.

Dear John:

I am leaving you.  I have taken little Winchester and Novella and we have gone to live with Mother until I can find a place of my own. I am sorry it has come to this, but your obsession is simply too much for me to bear, and our life together is no longer what it once was. I will try to explain, and in words which I think you will understand. I did spend some time studying how to say this.

We had a good marriage and I never minded that you took an interest in computing; after all, a man has to have a hobby. But what was once a hobby for you has now taken over your entire personality and our life together. I did not mind it when you started waking up every morning with the phrase, "Well, it's time to boot up again." I said nothing when your outrage over an IBM and Apple joint venture led you to plaster every mirror in the house with stickers that read "DON'T TAKE RISCs!" The kids were anything if not Stoic at being called "scuzzies" and "pixels" and being threatened with having their dip switches reset when they were bad. They also did not put up a fuss when you bought all their school clothes at Goodwill, so you could use the extra money to get a new color printer. And nobody complained when you started referring to everything in terms of files and folders. In fact, I was actually getting used to putting your underwear in the briefs subdirectory, next to the socks and boxers subdirectories, in the undergarment directory. But enough is enough.

I used to think it was funny when, during our romantic evenings, you would come into the bedroom stark naked and say, "Hey, baby, check out this hard drive," but for the past few months you have been approaching me with a floppy and I am not talking five and a quarter, either. I am tired of phoning home and getting the whine of your modem in my ear. Those RAM chips placed strategically in the kitchen cupboard are no longer funny anymore. No one understands your phrase "OS/2, Brute." My parents resent being referred to as unruly TSRs, and my sister refuses to come back to the house after you called her a "Bad command or file name."

I just do not seem to fit into your life anymore. You yourself have said as much. How many times have you said that we are no longer communicating at the same baud rate? Or that we are not handshaking anymore? Or that you are 12 megs and I am still 640K? Or that we are no longer operating at the same clock speed? After all, according to you, I communicate serially, while you are a parallel kind of person. You want to run in protected mode, but I keep holding you back in real mode. I am command driven and you have become GUI. You are laser and I am daisy wheel. You want network integration and I am just stand alone. I am a buffer and you want cache. I need to get my IRQs in order? Wrong!

I say it is time to Abort, Retry, or Ignore. As of this moment, John, you are on your own. I am now shareware.

To show that there are no hard feelings, I even cleaned house for you. I went so far as to clean your study, too. What a mess! Since you told me time and time again how you no longer used those old floppy disks of yours, ever since you got that big Kahuna 2 gigabyte optical drive, the one that now stores every program you have ever owned since C/PM, I threw them all out. I am sure you will never miss them.

To show you that I have learned something from our relationship, I even ventured to write this letter to you on your system. I wish it had been a successful venture. I did what you told me to do always to use my own floppy but I had to use a new one and I remembered you said that it had to be formatted, so I went to DOS and typed "FORMAT" at the C: prompt. Strangely, it took a really long time, but the format was successful. After that, though, I could not get anything to run, so I gave up and typed this on the old typewriter we had in the closet. It needs a new ribbon, by the way.

I hope everything is okay with your system. God knows, it is all you have now to remember our relationship by.

Love,  Helen

First published in Satire (Autumn 1994)

"Dear John ..."
Copyright © 1994 by Merle Harton, Jr.  All rights reserved