I'll always remember the noise it made when it booted up.
It sounded like an alarm clock falling down a very long spiral staircase. It sounded harsh, and mechanical. It didn't really feel like technology, in the way that the aPad I just got myself feels like technology. This felt like engineering. It was a machine, beautiful in a way that I hadn't realised was possible until that moment.
The first time I booted it up was a Friday afternoon in February. Two weeks ago, we'd visited Uncle Peter and his big house in the city for a weekend. I always looked forward to visiting Uncle Peter. Now, I think Mama and Papa tried to arrange our schedule as far as possible so Uncle Peter would be away when we were free, because I'd always come back babbling endlessly about all the cool stuff Uncle Peter had and what I could do with it if I had it. I guess they felt bad because they couldn't get any of it for me? They didn't have to worry. He had a lot of cool stuff, but that was it. The thought of us having that cool stuff all the time...I don't know why, but it just never seemed possible. Except once...
I missed my sister bad that year. I think that's what swung it. We were || that close. It's not her fault she was 18 and had to go to college, but she was and she did. She always had an answer, no matter how stupid the question was. She always had a moment. Or an evening to spare, in front of the TV. And then she wasn't there. We called each other, of course. But I could feel it. She was growing up, she had less time for me, she was having a whole new life.
I told her it was okay, of course. It was! Some of the time. But no matter how much I told myself not to be jealous, to be happy for her, to talk to Sam and Taylor instead (what are friends for?), I never could quite convince myself. I tried, but they couldn't replace her, could never replace her.
Anyway, that weekend Uncle Peter had a new toy, and this was the one. The classic old Amie, sitting on a desk in his home office. He turned it on and showed me what it could do. I mean, at first, I was just there because if Uncle Peter thought it was cool, it must be cool, right?
Didn't take long for that to change. Right about the point he started telling me about e-mail. I'd heard that word! That was something they had at college. I could feel the possibilities swirling round and round my stomach as Uncle Peter explained how it all worked. He even let me send one, to his friend; and a little while later, while we were looking at some of the other things the computer could do (and I getting more and more fascinated by the moment), a reply came back.
Pester power, I think it's called. I don't think I'd ever used it before for anything bigger than a skipping rope, but all day and all of the night, every day, Papa, when can I have my own Amie? Mama, I promise I'll take care of it! It took them ten days to break and give in, and then there I was, starting up my very own, dire threats ringing in my ears if I got bored of it after two weeks. No need to worry there, Papa.
I barely read the welcome message. I was too busy scrambling to get the e-mail set up. I'd been reading and re-reading the instructions (printed! on a printer!) that Uncle Peter had sent over to me, visualising every step, right up to the mail marathons I'd soon be having with my sister, everything all right again.
That night I sent my first e-mail, and I went to bed and slept soundly.