My Love Affair with the Computer

4 comments

I went to college at the University where Eniac was created. I didn’t get to use Eniac itself, but I did take a course in programming, using computers that still used mag cards. My project was to get the computer to write a poem, using random lines. I quickly realized I had to write several poems with interchangeable verses in order for this to work. Oops!

         

Is that me with Eniac?  I’m not telling.                                                    Poetry in magnetic motion

Law school was really just a library course – learning how to find the pertinent law among billions of tomes in the massive library. You couldn’t properly cite a case in a brief until you “Shepardized” it, which meant looking in a publication that listed every OTHER case that cited your case and then looking up each and every case, running through the stacks, lugging heavy bound volumes back to your carrel and then reading them.

Cover Art                                                                                In law school, the Shepard was my Lord

No personal computers, folks. No internet. Seriously. How did we live?

My first personal computer was a KayPro, which had green characters on a teeny screen, and 64K of memory. It processed words, printed onto a dot matrix printer, and could create a spreadsheet if one had plenty of time to assemble it. Nonetheless, I loved it! It was “luggable,” which meant a very heavy machine that was semi-portable. It used floppy disks. This was 1985, and it cost around $1600 (over $3000 in 2013 dollars).

1997: the internet entered my life. We had to use our phone line to access the net. Anyone remember the static-y sound of logging on, followed by the “bong bong” that meant success? I was mesmerized by internet access, and could not stop exploring. I could use a search engine such as HotBot or Dogpile to identify a song just by typing in the lyrics! That was heaven on earth to me and still remains one of my great joys. I have learned about wonderful bands just by searching song lyrics I heard on a commercial (State Radio) or piped in to a department store (Amy Winehouse). Prior to that, I used to leap from my car to use a phone booth to call the radio station to have them ID the song they were playing in real time.

 “What’s the name of that terrific song you were just playing?” 

I was so obsessed that I would often stay up all night exploring the world on the computer. I remember reading about Princess Diana’s car accident on the computer news feed, and rushing to turn on the TV to learn more. The TV news channels did not yet know it had happened. That was a galvanizing moment for me – I knew the world had changed dramatically. Today we are all very used to having so much info available to us at all times, but back then, I still read the local newspaper from cover to cover to learn what was going on in the world.

In 1998, I was on the computer at 4 am when a zillion termites swarmed my kitchen. That was fortuitous because I could eliminate them quickly instead of giving them time to make themselves at home. Imagine waking up and coming downstairs to termites sipping coffee and eating danish!

In 1999, I bought a Gateway (as in gateway drug?). Remember those? It was a great computer that lasted for many years. My children were VERY occasionally allowed to use it. They were forced to turn to a life of video-game playing to compensate.

Eventually the boys saved up their money and bought themselves computers. I would not let them use them in their bedrooms until they were college age. Having the computers in the living room meant that they wouldn’t be able to access porn 24/7 – they would have to limit it only to the hours I was at work.

Young boys looking at a computer screen (© Design Pics Inc/Rex Features)

Whoa — is that Winnie from The Wonder Years?  Hot damn!

After the Gateway, I went the laptop route entirely. I had an adorable tiny Sony Vaio that was ahead of its time in terms of lightness and ease in carrying. I really loved that little guy, had it fixed a few times, but after a number of years, it was too limited in memory to continue to serve. Next was the Toshiba, another fabulous laptop that had a HUGE screen and was therefore pretty heavy. I think that one succumbed to the blue screen of death. My son MOS-32, by then a professional computer dude, managed to save some stuff from the hard drive, but after that I began to use an external hard drive for serious saving. Almost all our photographs from the past 10 years exist only in digital form. I used to worry about losing physical photographs in a fire or flood; now I worry about a computer virus eating all my family memories.

Currently I have a Samsung, which is nice but not spectacular. My real confession here, though, is that I love using the computer and being on the internet so much that it prevents me from doing other things I used to love doing. I love knitting, but can do that only at a meeting where there is no computer access. I used to read books! I used to do crafts and draw and paint! Now that I have the smartphone, the internet follows me into the bathroom like my children used to do.

                                 Man on toilet with smart phone

As someone who, as a kid, used to borrow single volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia from the library to read for fun, I find the notion that I can get answers in nanoseconds at any hour of the day or night to be intoxicating (in every sense of the word, including the dependence). And I haven’t even touched on the subject of internet SHOPPING!

 

4 comments on “My Love Affair with the Computer”

  1. My computer geek sons have desktop systems at home that they “built,” i.e., purchased components and assembled them. They have multiple screens. I don’t even pretend to know what that means or why it’s important. Gateway still makes desktops, though.
    It is amazing books have survived as a medium for so long, considering how fragile they are. I agree it will be sad if books become archaic, but I think it will take a long long time.

  2. I have had great luck with Gateway laptops. Do they even make desktops anymore for personal use? I don’t know a single person you uses one. As Michelle said… books might be on the way out. As much as I love computers and technology, it will be a sad day if the day comes when I can’t pick up a book and read it.

  3. I love computers too Randi! I loved the photo of the gateway 2000, we had that as our family computer when I was younger. It is crazy to think that it wasn’t until relatively recently that we could access information on the internet. I often times wonder what kind of advances will be made in the next 10-20 years that will change life for my daughter. I think books entirely might be on their way out – so many people use electronic devices and you can even check out e-books from the library now! Crazy town…

    1. We don’t even realize the zillions of changes. That part about legal research — I now do it through Westlaw, which is entirely on line. I almost never crack a law book these days. I still carry reams of paper to court, but then the clerk hands me a CD and there is ALL THE EVIDENCE I SUBMITTED, in my hand.
      Remember getting film developed? Or film itself?
      I agree about books, but I think it will take a long time to happen. However, I was at the library at a university in CT last week, and there were NO BOOKS. Just computers. For real. Is it still a “library” (from French “librairie”; Latin “liber” = book)?

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