In one of my favourite scenes from Inspector Morse, Morse tells Lewis a little about his adolescence and how he promised himself that he’d never forget what it felt like; and then he delivered the kicker, that of course he did, that everyone does. There are many reasons I accepted the fallibility of memory, but that scene was probably my earliest introduction to it; and I carried the inevitability of that separation of present and past selves with me into later life. I still believe we lose touch with the experience of adolescence, but one thing exists that can remind us how it felt: the Windows 10 upgrade cycle.
We start on Windows 7 or XP, as in childhood, with a world that makes sense. It might not be ideal all the time, or let us do everything we want, but it’s stable and we have our toys.
Then we hear that change is inevitable; that Windows 7 must end, and our system must upgrade. None of our friends have upgraded, and – while there are people who’ve gone through it – their experience is vastly different to ours. We search the internet, but the articles we find are superficial and confusing, and don’t answer our questions.
We receive the first sign of the upgrade, the Get Windows 10 pop-up. Sometimes it pops up when we don’t expect it, or even gets in the way when we’re trying to do something, but – apart from a possible moment of embarrassment – it isn’t really unsettling, and everything else works like we expect.
Then comes the first wisps of inevitability: the optional upgrades. Like picking what to study for GCSE, people suggest we should start considering the upgrade as if it is something that will happen, but doesn’t have to happen yet. More people, people we know, have upgraded. But those who have similar interests to us aren’t raving about the experience, so we cling to the joy of Windows 7.
Then the updates become recommended, and the Get Windows 10 pop up more frequent. We have to actively not upgrade, and cannot – even in the spaces between – forget that things must change.
Eventually, we lose control of our system. The update becomes important, then pre-downloaded for your ease. Like the combination of puberty and the need to choose a post-school path, our lives have changed against our will; we hold to the memories of Windows 7 as we become Windows 10.
Or we realise history is not destiny, and install Linux.