Benjamin and the Fish Machine
I walked into a computer store the other day. I've got a new job, you see, and I thought I might spend some of my hard-earned cash on a handful of enhancements for my rapidly ageing computer. A hard disk that didn't take seven hours to load Microsoft Word; a monitor that didn't require hand-cranking; a CD-ROM drive that didn't attempt to eat my knees; a small wooden bird to look jaunty on the end of my case. It wasn't much to ask, and to be honest, I deserved it. If I was going to continue to write articles for this esteemed and very serious journal, I might as well not go blind and paraplegic in the process.
And so it is that, one particularly sunny afternoon, I find myself traipsing across town to Credit Death Computers, a family firm run from a sweet little yellow shop on the meadows. "This is delightful," I think as I step through the ornate marble archway into the showroom. "Simply splendid."
That's what they want you to think. It is a fact, dear readers, that the average computer store marks their prices up by a factor of God. Some items - laptops, for example, or a projector screen so you can see your desktop illuminated on one side of the Empire State Building - are marked up by God squared, or even God cubed. (Ironically, you can buy God Himself for roughly the price of half a dozen DVD rewritables and a packet of chips.)
The clerk's name is Lequitus. I know that because his badge says "Hi! My name's Lequitus! Welcome to Credit Death. It's easy to recycle". He looks more like a Stanley or a Robert, and sounds more like farm machinery crying out for oil.
"Hi," he says, "my name's Lequitus. Welcome to Credit Death. Did you know it's easy to recycle?"
"Yes," I say, "I did."
"Oh, right," he says, slightly taken aback. "Is there anything I can help you with today?"
I tell him there is; I'm looking for something to make my computer not be shit.
"Ah, sir," Lequitus the Clerk says with an endearing smile that stretches all across his vacuous geekboy face, "I have a product that will make you grin like an idiot, sir. A lot of people think it's the processor or the hard disk that slows down a computer, sir, but it's actually the graphics card." He takes me over to a table and points at the miniscule computer sitting on it. "This machine here has the newest nVidia card."
I look at the picture. It's not perfect; the colour isn't particularly vivid, and it's not doing anything amazing. Seems to be playing a DVD, which even my computer can do if you punch it enough. "What's so special about that?" I ask, incredulously.
"Sir," he says, utterly too enthusiastically for my liking, "it can see through time, sir. Look! That's not a DVD, that's 1976."
I look closely. Sure enough, 1976 is all present and correct, playing back on the smallest computer I have ever seen. It makes me cry inside. "I don't want to see 1976," I say. "A time with no Star Wars is no time for me."
"Well," he says, looking at me as if someone shot cocaine through his eyes, "then I have something else that I think you will find entirely satisfactory. Come over here, sir" - he leads me over to another table, where a single puff of smoke is hovering in stasis without any visible means of support - "and see the latest Microsoft Windows."
I look at the puff of smoke. "That's not Microsoft Windows," I say, "that's a puff of smoke."
"That is a puff of vapour," Lequitus corrects me. "This is the purest form of Windows currently available. It is completely stable, runs faster than curry, is entirely compatible with everything and speaks seventy-nine hundred languages."
"It's a puff of vapour," I reiterate.
"It's not, it's Windows," he grins at me, the awe dribbling from his head.
I consider my options for a moment, and decide that it's probably worth a go if it'll make my computer faster. I ask him if it will.
"To be sure," he beams.
I smile, begin to take my card from my wallet, and -- "How much does it cost?" I ask, suspecting I have seen the flaw in this plan.
"It is available under the brand new Microsoft Licensing Scheme," he explains to me. "They feel they have gone beyond the point where they can accept money. Therefore, to buy Microsoft Windows, you must now purge yourself into a bucket each morning and send your effluent to their headquarters in Seattle. It's amazing, actually," he says, evangelically. "They intend to make a three thousand ton shitbeast with which to enslave humankind."
"I see. Could you perhaps," I say, trying to work myself around so I can back myself out the front door and make a run for it, "show me something that I can pay money for but isn't foolishly expensive? Something under a hundred pounds for example?"
He looks at me aghast. "You can have my piss for a hundred pounds is what you can have," he says, shouting now, his right hand grabbing for the sawn-off shotgun he hides behind the counter. "Get the fuck out of my shop, you insignificant little turd."
And that is how, with my money that I earned from my job, I came to buy the Fish Machine. My family think I'm quite insane, but ooh mama, you ain't had thrills until you've made a carp from nothing but wood and treacle.
I'll be selling them on the Internet soon. Just as soon as I get a computer that's fast enough.
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