By Debbie Burke


This is an elegy to a dear old friend who’s been with me through more than a decade of writing trials, tribulations, and triumphs.

Assisted by this helpmate, I wrote guest posts that led to becoming a regular at TKZ (the best gig I’ve ever had) along with countless nonfiction articles.

This same friend worked quietly, patiently, and tirelessly with me as I wrote a thriller series that started with Instrument of the Devil. That book fulfilled a 30+-year dream of having a novel traditionally published.

The same friend stayed beside me through the seven novels in the series, but finally, tragically, faltered near the end of the eighth book.

I’m talking about my beloved, dependable, familiar Windows 7 laptop.

Okay, stop laughing about my anachronism. I never claimed to be on the leading edge of technology.

I don’t usually get attached to inanimate objects, but, from the beginning, this computer was different, special.

Back in 2012, the computer I was using quit, and I needed a new one. I was happy with the Windows 7 system.  But, at that time, Microsoft was launching Windows 8 with lots of fanfare.

8 received many jeering reviews and complaints. I decided it wasn’t for me. Turned out 8 wasn’t for anyone else either.

Dang it, I wanted another Windows 7 laptop.

My terrific husband knows how important writing is to me and he was going to make sure I had what I wanted. He went on a quest to buy one.

But…after combing numerous stores in northwest Montana, he learned all current laptop stock had been ordered back to Microsoft to be retrofitted with 8. Despite customer dissatisfaction, they were determined to ram their new system down consumers’ throats…or maybe up where the sun doesn’t shine.

Because my husband believes the impossible only takes a little longer, he refused to concede defeat and continued his search. At one store, he persuaded an employee to climb up a ladder to the rafters (where they stored extra stock) on the off chance that a 7 laptop had been overlooked. Amazingly, he found the last 7 in northwest Montana, probably the entire state, maybe even the continent. 

He brought it home and presented it to me. I couldn’t have been happier or more touched if he’d given me a diamond ring.

Because of his extra effort, right out of the box, that Windows 7 laptop was precious.

For the next decade, it worked its little hard drive out with nary a blip or crash. From time to time, a virus wormed past security software but, after a few sick days in the shop, it was back on the job. Even when Microsoft ended support for Windows 7 in 2020, it continued to function as dependably and trouble-free as ever.

Then, early one morning this past December, disaster struck.

I was about three-quarters of the way through Deep Fake, the eighth book in my series, working hard to finish it for January release.

Without warning, the screen on the 7 went black. Rebooted. It started, worked for a short time, then went black. The hard drive felt unusually warm. After it cooled down, my husband rebooted and managed to run tests before it went black again.

Diagnosis: The hard drive was failing.

As mentioned before, I’m not one who gets attached to inanimate objects. But, that morning, I felt physical grief—a hollow, helpless desperation in the pit of my stomach. As if a beloved friend had been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

More than a decade’s worth of my writing life was in that machine. Fortunately, most files were backed up on thumb drives and an external hard drive. You didn’t really expect this dinosaur, stuck in the prehistoric 7 world, to use “the cloud,” did you?

We rushed my 7 to the Staples hospital where a valiant young tech named Will harvested data from the gasping hard drive before it expired for good.

Will performed transplant surgery, trying to save its life with a new drive. We brought it home but, like human terminal illnesses, it went from crisis to crisis, sliding downhill. Back to the hospital for CPR, home again, back for an experimental procedure, home again. For several weeks, Will tried one extraordinary, heroic measure after another.

Finally, I brought 7 home for the last time. My faithful old friend couldn’t be saved.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older but, these days, I cling tighter to loved ones. Losing friends used to mean we’d chosen different life paths or moved away or simply grown apart. Now, more often, losing friends means the final goodbye, never to see them again.

I bid farewell to my beloved 7.

I’ve transitioned to a MacBook Air that had previously been a secondary computer used for Zoom, power points, and social media. Good thing the Mac is not a sentient being. Otherwise, it would feel my seething resentment as I learn to type on its unfamiliar keyboard with unfamiliar commands. File organization is much different on a Mac than the PC operating system I’m used to. My work has slowed to a crawl.

People keep asking when my next book is coming out. Soon, I say.

Yeah, I’ll get used to the Mac…eventually…reluctantly.

Dear old 7, I wish you could have finished one last book with me. But you worked long and hard and deserve to rest in peace.



How important is familiarity to your workflow?

  1. Very
  2. Moderately
  3. Not at all

How much do changes in systems or software disrupt your routine?

  1. Not much
  2. Somewhat affected
  3. I’m jumping off a bridge.



My new thriller, DEEP FAKE, is coming “soon.” Please sign up at my website to be notified when it’s out.

This entry was posted in #amwriting, Windows 7, Writing, writing life, writing process, Writing software by Debbie Burke. Bookmark the permalink.

About Debbie Burke

Debbie writes the Tawny Lindholm series, Montana thrillers infused with psychological suspense. Her books have won the Kindle Scout contest, the Zebulon Award, and were finalists for the Eric Hoffer Book Award and BestThrillers.com. Her articles received journalism awards in international publications. She is a founding member of Authors of the Flathead and helps to plan the annual Flathead River Writers Conference in Kalispell, Montana. Her greatest joy is mentoring young writers. http://www.debbieburkewriter.com

52 thoughts on “R.I.P.

  1. My idea of hell is trying to work with Apple’s “operating” system after years of a Windows environment! Eek.
    ❖ How important is familiarity to your workflow?
    ❎ Very?
    ❏ Moderately?
    ❏ Not at all?
    ❖ How much do changes in systems or software disrupt your routine?
    ❏ Not much
    ❎ Somewhat affected
    ❏ I’m jumping off a bridge.

    I run Libre Office Suite under Xubuntu on a desktop. No more WeenieDOS! I occasionally have helped friends who have Apple or Windows systems. They’re a pain in the dumpadeedus. And I have an ASUS Chrome Book that I use only for Zoom and at workshops and such. It’s obsolete and I may have to replace it soon. No biggie.

    • J, clearly your tech knowledge exceeds mine. By the time I get up to speed on an operating system, it’s obsolete. Glad you’re using a system that works for you.

      • In ancient days, I was the systems manager at an engineering company, responsible for acquiring and maintaining all software and hardware. It was fun. On one or two occasions, I ran programs blind, printing out and saving files after the (monochrome) monitor had failed. I could write application scripts and let them update 50+ drawing files while I was at lunch. I also programmed the company’s telephone “switch.” I wrote three 3rd-party software manuals. Now, I get by with help from my son and whatever advice I can find on-line. It is not fun.

  2. Debbie, I get it. I’m sorry for your loss.

    I deeply resent the planned obsolescence of computers, iPads, phones, et al. There are enough people who are compelled to rush out and buy the latest version of everything and anything to keep the parent company in business.

    As far as work is concerned…

    How important is familiarity to your workflow?

    3. Not at all.

    How much do changes in systems or software disrupt your routine?

    Not much.

    Thanks, Debbie. Hope your week goes well.

    • Thanks, Joe. Planned obsolescence really bugs me, too. We’ve become a wasteful society. Perfectly good, useable products are cast off in landfills simply b/c they’re not the latest version. Why are we throwing away valuable resources?

  3. Good morning, Debbie.

    Beautiful eulogy. I’m sorry for your loss. Win7 lived a wonderful life, helping you through rough times and rejoicing with you in success. Even though your trusted friend didn’t make it through #8, it did complete #7 (the perfect number) and gave you a push start on #8, saying, “You can do this, my friend.”

    Wiping the tears, and sniffling, we’ll grieve with you today.

    Good questions:
    1. Familiarity is very important to my workflow
    2. Systems and software changes disrupt my routine moderately

    I, too, grieved my Win7 (my laptop that is), but good old MacApple is proving to be a dependable friend. Give him a chance.

  4. I do not do technology change well. In fact, while I realize we are a laptop world, I don’t like having to use them. I want a nice normal desktop computer hooked up to my monitors with a normal mouse & keyboard. To me, laptops are what you use if it’s the last choice on earth. I don’t like their cramped keyboards and their small screens are impractical (why I’m NOT the quintessential picture of the writer sitting at the coffee shop, typing away on their laptop).

    But I’m going through exactly this torture at work right now. Our office space is being repurposed (logically, given most in the last few years have transitioned to a hybrid work from home/work from office schedule). However, they are getting rid of desktop workstations and transitioning to laptops. That means getting used to docking stations, trials of wiring and hookups to monitors, keyboard, etc & not having your own dedicated physical space to work in, etc.

    So alas, for me, 2023 is the year of “Suck it up and deal with it.” I may not like using a laptop but it looks like I’m stuck. But for personal use, I will use a desktop as long as they are available. In my experience, a desktop pc lasts far longer than a laptop.

    • Brenda, desktops took up too much space in my limited area so laptops were the best fit. But moving among docking stations and not having your own work space must be trying. Wishing you endless patience to cope with your work transitions.

  5. Hi Debbie.

    Software and which Windows version I’m using doesn’t matter. For me it’s all about the keyboard.

    I use a ridiculously small but powerful desktop computer for business, covers, email, all that. For business stuff, clunkiness doesn’t matter.

    But I use a dedicated writing ‘puter. When I sit down at that one, my creative subconscious knows it’s time to play with my friends. (grin) I need my fingers to be able to crawl over the keyboard of my writing ‘puter instinctively. For that, I love the keyboard of the HP ProBook with the 11.6″ screen and solid state drive (no noise). Perfect. It’s attached to a 22″ monitor.

    In fact, I read somewhere that Harlan Ellison had several copies of his favorite typewriter on shelves in his office as spares. Great idea!. So I went to ebay, found and bought a few inexpensive copies of my favorite laptop, all loaded with Windows, all factory refurbished and warranted.

    Just something to think about.

    • Keyboards are very personal. And that is in the non-writer crowd. Some people like small and silky. Some need a solid click. I have several styles on hand (I am IT Support) to find what you like and want to work with. I am down to one person who likes a full mechanical, 3 pound, clicks when you hit the keys, HP keyboard.

    • The keyboard has to feel automatic to me too, Harvey. I can visualize your designated writing ‘puter and your eager hands scampering as your busy subconscious pours out new stories. That’s how I felt about my 7.

      My husband offered to hunt down refurbs but I decided to bite the bullet b/c change was inevitable.

  6. Familiarity is a big part of my workflow. So is change. I have adjusted to Windows 11. It is very Mac like. It does run better than Win10 on the same machine. I use Office365. If you are change resistant, O365 updates every two weeks. Most of the changes are hard to detect. Predictive text is the latest big thing. More than half of these sentences were finished by the computer for me. Given my spelling, that might be a good thing.

    • Alan, I heard 11 is more Mac-like.

      Predictive is a combination of useful and creepy–I don’t like a computer thinking for me…unless it comes up with that elusive word I can’t remember.

  7. People loved Window 7. So much so it wouldn’t die. It was released in 2009. The first end date was January 2015. The disaster that was Windows 8 stretched that to 2020. Paid security updates ended a few weeks ago. There was one large customer who paid for security support. Microsoft supposedly was firm that despite the several million dollars per year that company paid for Windows 7 support, Windows 10 is going to die on schedule.

    If you are on Windows 7 now, it is time. Save your work to more than one backup. Make a list of the software you need. Bite the bullet and shop for a computer.

  8. I was pretty sick at the end of last year. On top of that, I lost my MacBook Air to an accident that killed it. I feel your pain. I bought a used MacBook Air on line, which I do not recommend, but I had it rebuild and now it’s great. It’s like having a new kitten in the house.

    Once you get used to Mac, you’ll be fine.

    • Brian, I remember your Mac catastrophe b/c you couldn’t access the beautiful book covers you’d designed for me. Our lives are tied up in these machines.

      Thanks for your encouraging words. You overcame your loss and are off and running again.

  9. I don’t think I could go from PC to MAC. I also use Office 365, but like others, it’s the keyboard that matters to me. I’m off to Left Coast Crime and working on my Surface with its much smaller keyboard. I don’t expect to be doing any serious writing given the crowded schedule of the conference, but just handling the basics like email, etc. is a challenge in typos. Muscle memory is strong in this one.
    I have upgraded the Surface to 11 although my main computer is still running 10. Being a non-tech, when I got the PC I paid, quite willingly for an extended warranty so the Dell gurus could take over the computer and fix anything that gave me trouble. Now that my warranty’s done, I dread the next glitch.
    Good luck navigating your learning curve.
    As for your questions — Familiarity is very important, but I’d say I’m a 2 as far as disruption goes.

    • Terry, have a great time at LCC. Say howdy to Leslie Budewitz, Shannon Baker, and Keenan Powell.

      Extended warranties are important to me also. You Tube provides answers to many questions but nothing beats the guy across the counter who shows you the magic tricks that make it all become clear.

  10. Mac computer, yikes!

    Changes within a program doesn’t bother me much, but moving from one program to another throws everything off. Last few years, everyone’s been using google apps, and I absolutely hate googledox. Microsoft word for me, all the way. Googledox says they have all the same features, but they’re impossible to find.

  11. I feel your pain, Debbie. I went through that with the death of previous Windows computers–I loved my Windows 95 machine. I wasn’t keen on Windows ME, what my late friend John dubbed “the Mistake Edition” but I loved the computer it ran on, and mourned it when it died. I had two locally locally built Windows 7 desktops in a row after that ME machine. Sadly neither made it more that four years. When the second one died, I decided to change my workflow and go with a MacBook Air, hooked up to the external monitor I had from the last machine. I still have that monitor, though it’s 11 years old now.

    I’m thoroughly a Mac user now. My wife has a Surface Laptop running Windows 10, which of course is going away. And so it goes.

    To answer your questions, familiarity is moderately important to my workflow, and changes to somewhat affect the workflow. The familiarity that comes with practice eases the pain of change.

    RiP your laptop, indeed.

    • Dale, you bring back memories talking about 95. How about Vista and XP?

      My Mac screen is a problem b/c it’s such low contrast. I probably need to hook up to an external monitor so I can see.

      Practice is key, all right. Thanks for the encouragement that there’s life beyond 7.

  12. The answers are “very” and “jumping off a bridge.” I feel your pain. My Windows 10 laptop (which didn’t last as long as my 7) was a good writing companion. It was hard to give it up for the 11 last fall. I’d written many versions of my novel on 7 and 10. The most annoying part was getting all of my auto correct definitions into the new version of Word. That was a whole ‘nother thing to get used to. Sigh.

  13. As much time we spend on our computers it’s no wonder they become like family. My Windows 7 computer died in 2015 and I was so mad that I couldn’t get another one that I decided that if I had to learn a new system I’d learn a Mac. I bought one and it lasted 7 years. I figure I wrote over a million words on it. Now I’ve started my next million on the new one. Mac is trying to get me to update to Ventura (I think that’s what it’s called) but have resisted so far. Lol

  14. I was reaching for the Kleenex when I got to the part in your post that identified your friend. Very good.

    It’s been a while since I had a Windows 7 box, but I know the feeling of losing a good companion–especially one that takes a few files with them when they depart. I have a Windows 10 laptop, but I’m resisting going to Win 11. (The word “upgrade” sends shivers up my spine, but I know it’s inevitable.) I also have a MacBook Air and a MacBook Pro. I work with all three laptops every day. Each one has its own job. I try to convince myself that switching back and forth keeps my fingers (and my brain) nimble. The jury’s out on that one.

    Familiarity is very important to my workflow. Systems changes are disruptive, but on the bright side, I’ve learned a whole new vocabulary of choice words over the years to deal with Bill Gates, et al.

    • Switching has definitely kept your brain nimble, Kay!

      Your “new vocabulary” is a hoot! Maybe we should sponsor a TKZ competition for the best insults to Gates, et.al.

      Then again, this is a family blog.

  15. I hate change . . . let’s just get that out of the way right now.

    I’m not tech-proficient, so when something looks different, I panic. Husband to the rescue.

    I work on a Dell laptop, hence Windows. I hate all the updates from Microsuck, so I pause them for weeks, until I absolutely have to. The worst thing is to be humming along at whatever, then something gets stuck, then I find out it’s because MS is updating in the background.

    Do you think I have a control issue? 🙂

  16. I guess a 2 and a 2, Debbie. I loved W7 and I had hard drive with it die only to be replaced with W8 which I tolerated and did everything to avoid W10. But the 8 also died and now I have 11 which, I have to say, I love. Best op system ever.

    ps Long live the cloud.

    • Glad you’re happy with 11.

      The cloud concept is fine but I always worry about access when/if the net goes down. Denial of Service (DoS) attacks are getting more frequent. What a world.

  17. I’m so sorry about your W7 PC and understand the struggle, but in a totally different way.

    How important is familiarity to your workflow? Moderately, but I adapt quickly.

    How much do changes in systems or software disrupt your routine? Somewhat affected, but I adapt quickly.

    I spent my corporate career in the IT department of ATT, so changes were a built-in requirement of the job. While my technical skills are now ancient, I still have the ability to grasp and embrace changes without throwing a hissy fit. My current laptop won’t accommodate the new Windows 11 and I’m not looking forward to changing. That resistance has less to do with the OS change and everything to do with the shopping for a new laptop. Many of my decisions are based on how a machine “feels” to me and it’s much more difficult for me to adapt for that than to anything related to the software. I also require a matte screen and not one of those shiny screens. If it has a reflection, I can’t use it. Since everyone seems enamored of shiny objects, finding a laptop that isn’t is like fighting my way up a volcanic mountain. This makes it very difficult to shop online and I despise shopping in person. But shop I must and I keep putting it off.

    • Jeanne, your equanimity in the face of change is admirable.

      I didn’t know there was such a thing as matte-finish monitors. Does that reduce eyestrain? A good clear monitor is numero uno, followed closely by a comfortable keyboard.

      Thanks for stopping by and hope you find the best computer on your first shopping trip.

  18. I’ve never liked laptops, ever since my Toshiba popped and expired in my lap one day.

    I did use one when I was teaching and had to do lectures and presentations no matter where I was. Often in the back of a McDonalds somewhere or outside a closed library.

    They rarely shut off their servers.

    My current box is a W7 desktop that runs sixteen hours a day, 365 days a year, and has been around for 7 or 8 years, which means about 40,000 hours and I changed a three dollar computer fan. I see no reason to change or update it, as long as I avoid sketchy websites.

    Laptops in my view do not have good air circulation and you can’t clean the dust out of them easily. I bring the computer outside once every six months or so and blow the cat hair out of it.

    You can do a lot of computing on the cheap if you stay three steps behind the bleeding edge of the technology curve.

    I reckon I may get a second hard drive one of these days and clone the one that’s in there as a backup.

  19. 1 & 3. I’m a creature of habit. After my Toshiba crashed a few years ago, I grew sick and tired of losing laptops to Microsoft’s glitchy updates and switched to an iMac and MacBook Pro. Never once have I regretted the decision. For me, there’s no comparison between the two. Learning curve? Sure, but all the frustration and uncertainty was worth it in the end. Hope you find the same is true for you, Debbie! Condolences to good ol’ #7.

  20. Thanks for the encouragement, Sue. Other Mac friends assure me that, once I get used to it, I’ll never want to go back.

    Can we connect a wire between our brains so you can upload your Mac knowledge to me?

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