Why My Crashing Computer Reminds Me of My Epilepsy


A couple months ago, my one year old laptop suffered a – well, a traumatic injury (OK, I spilled milk on it). I performed all the emergency medical care that I could, but damage was inevitable. I’m grateful it works at all. But now, my laptop has episodes of malfunction, impossible to predict and even more impossible to prevent.

Most days, it works just fine, processing information, saving memory, performing tasks, and running programs. But once in a while, without any sort of warning, it stops in the middle of whatever is happening and just instantly crashes into a display of multi-colored static. Nothing can restore the function except shutting it down for a few minutes and restarting it. It doesn’t matter how important the function was that was happening at the moment of the crash – there is no getting it to restore until the episode is over and the hardware has recovered. I am fortunate that these particular malfunctions do not seem to cause any permanent hardware damage.

If I’m lucky, this only happens once in a while. But there are some days when the issues happen over and over again. I try to restart after each one, perhaps increasing the recovery time. Sometimes if I try enough times, function is restored and I can resume work. But sometimes, there is just no recovering that day, for whatever unknown reason…the temperature? Humidity in the air? The type of program that was running? Something in the video processing function? I’ll never know.

Sometimes I think of it as a minor annoyance. Other days it is frustrating. Once in a while, it ruins a whole day or two, wasting whatever tasks might have been completed in that valuable time.

Imagine if this were a computer I used on the job, or at school. How effective would my work be, which takes place about 90 percent of the time on the computer, if several days per month the hardware just suddenly collapsed into a mess of illogical visual snow – giving me no time to save my work, back up my hard drive, or ask for assistance? Interrupting Facebook posts is one matter, but losing all the edits in a 710 page report is another matter altogether.

I could scrap it and buy a new one, but like I said, most of the time, it works just fine. It has great value to me and I want to keep it, to do work with it. It just takes some accommodation and understanding on the part of the user to work successfully on this machine. In a way, I’ve become more endeared to this computer than I was before, because I’ve worked so hard to adapt to it, and with it, and I’ve tried so hard to request of others a certain accommodation and understanding from people who interact with it.

My laptop and I have the same illness. We both have epilepsy.

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