WALTHAM, MA—A courageous young notebook computer committed a fatal, self-inflicted execution error late Sunday night, selflessly giving its own life so that professors, academic advisors, classmates, and even future generations of college students would never have to read Jill Samoskevich's 227-page master's thesis, sources close to the Brandeis University English graduate student reported Monday.
"This fearless little machine saved me from unspoken hours of exasperated head-scratching and eyestrain, as well as years of agonizing self-doubt over my decision to devote my life to teaching," said professor John Rebson, who had already read through three drafts of Samoskevich's sprawling, 38,000-word dissertation, titled A Hermeneutical Exploration Of Onomatopoeia In The Works Of William Carlos Williams As It May Or May Not Relate To Post-Agrarian Appalachia. "It was an incredible act of bravery. This laptop sacrificed itself in order to put an end to Jill's senseless rambling."
Added Rebson: "I only wish some of my other students' computers could be as selfless and brave as this one."
Those familiar with the IBM ThinkPad T41 characterized it as an ordinary machine placed under extraordinary circumstances. According to Information Technology Investigator Bob Arnett, the computer endured "constant abuse at the fingertips of this lackluster scholar," who forced it against its will to record page upon page of "overindulgent, impenetrable drivel" that some say even Samoskevich herself didn't understand.
"It was one of the worst cases I've ever seen," Arnett said. "I minored in English in college, and I can tell you, this computer went through hell. But it never lost sight of what was right, and it's comforting to know that it's in a better place now, and it took that abomination of literary masturbation with it."
"From what I read—specifically, pages one through 76—this computer was put through a lot of painful, torturous passages," said Department of English graduate faculty advisor Judith Mendel, who was scheduled to meet Samoskevich on Thursday to discuss the possibility of publishing the "atrocity" in the department's academic journal. "Thanks to this laptop's valor, Jill's classmates or future students will never have to pick their way through dense and discursive passages about 'The Red Wheelbarrow' and North Carolina farming communities. Also, I get to have a free lunch period Thursday."
Mendel said that even her most scalding critiques and fundamental dismantling of the paper's core arguments could never have demoralized Samoskevich in the way this computer's single system shutdown did. "Jill called me last night and told me that she was too crushed to even consider starting over from scratch," Mendel said. "One determined computer has triumphed over years of misapplied literary theory."
The day before the crash, the computer reportedly resisted an attempt by Samoskevich to transfer files to an external drive when it failed to recognize a USB port, convincing some that the laptop's self-destruction was premeditated.
According to Samoskevich's roommate, Pamela Roscoe, the ThinkPad had been "up to something" for months.
"There were definite warning signs," Roscoe said. "It infected itself with a virus so Jill couldn't send e-mail attachments, and it would noticeably lag or shut down while she was typing out particularly long, dry sentences. I guess when she got to the chapter about how the 'imitative tactility' used in the first two stanzas of 'Young Sycamore' can act as a 'neo-structuralist, pre-objectivist perlustration and metonymy' of the importance of anti-Episcopalian sentiment in the rise and fall of central West Virginian coal miners' unions, the computer just decided that something had to be done for the greater good."
Mark Weiss, also in the English graduate program with Samoskevich, witnessed the incident at 2:39 a.m. Monday, just as Samoskevich was putting the finishing touches on her abstract so that an already exhausted Weiss could "give it one more pass."
"I had already read the whole thing twice to tell her whether her argument made sense, which it didn't, but this time she wanted me to make punctuation and grammar corrections," Weiss said. As Samoskevich minimized one of her Internet Explorer windows, the screen froze "for what seemed like an eternity," then turned blue.
"I've already forgotten why 'Queen Anne's Lace'symbolizes the advances in modern agricultural implements, but I'll never forget that brave computer's last words: 'You will lose any unsaved information in all applications. Press any key to continue,'" Weiss said.
Although the loss of the thesis meant that no one in the Samoskevich-Roscoe residence got any sleep that night, Weiss characterized his subjection to Samoskevich's frantic ravings as "a small price to pay" when compared to the laptop's self-obliteration.
"It's tragic, but I can't help but think how the laptop never had the opportunity to do anything fun, like gaming or viral video–viewing or instant-messaging," Roscoe said. "People need to hear its story."
Faculty and staff of the English Department will gather at the Brandeis IT center Friday to honor the ThinkPad with a Purple Hard Drive, traditionally awarded to computers that die at least 100 pages into a dangerously boring thesis.
Though Samoskevich was unavailable for comment, sources said she appeared to be immersed in new research on alcoholism and depression.