Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ah Technology

Several years ago, my daughter asked me if we still had that old typewriter. “I don’t, know, honey” I groaned, “ What do you want that for? ..I don’t know if we even have a ribbon…” “ What’s a ribbon?” she asked. We got our first home computer around 1992. I recall the year because Hurricane Andrew blew through south florida august 1992. In preparation for Andrew, I dismantled the computer, wrapped it in black trash bags and stored it on a top shelf in the bedroom closet. We put furniture on blocks, plywood on windows, stored ice and canned foods, and all the other preparations recommended . (all, that is, except evacuation) My brother came over from the east coast of florida, and while Pete was putting plywood on the windows, Robert said: “I hope you have enough plywood to build yourself a ten foot platform, cuz when that storm surge comes over the island, you’re going to need it!” I don’t want to digress into hurricane chatter - lord knows that could go on for days and days. But I was saying I recall our first computer because after hurricane Andrew passed, and I retrieved the computer from the shelf and re-assembled it, Pete was first to log on, and commented: “how could we have all these e-mails? The computer wasn’t even plugged in!” (grin!) Lauren was three years old in 1992. Our first computer was a Mac - a hand-me-down from Pete’s brother Herb. We had great fun with it, buying the kids all those educational games. Sarah had little interest, but Lauren was a natural. I wonder if she remembers life without computers. Our technology is truly amazing. Right now I am sitting here watching a real-time flight view of Lauren’s trip to Ohio. Right now she is just outside of Gainesville, with some pretty heavy rain. My mother bought a computer when she first moved to Florida, back in 1998. God Bless her, she wanted to be a part of the e-mail generation. She has a sister who was quite computer literate, and I think perhaps mom felt a little competitive. She had a difficult time grasping the concept that the computer was more than an e-mail machine - that it had a myriad of other functions. She frequently called with all sorts of questions which drove firmly home to me how much we take for granted. I bought her a CD on medical terminologies (she loved that stuff). Shortly after having given it to her, she told me it didn’t work. “what do you mean it doesn’t work? What happens when you put it in?” “Nothing. Nothing happens.” Well, she was putting it in upside down. Who’d’ve thought. But the one that I best remember was when she asked me how she could make it go down a line while typing a letter. I said, hit the return key. What’s the return key? You know, I said, like in the old typewriters…the return key. Boy was I set straight when she reminded me that in her day, there were no return keys, you manually flung the carriage over every line you typed. The first computer I used was at the News-Press. I did copy input. I sat and typed all day. The terminals had a series of buttons across the top that had F’s on them. I was told they were “UDK’s” , or User Define Keys”, but no one would tell me what they were for. So, I”d press them. Greg H. was our IT support. Great guy. Lost his patience with me a few times. I did the copy entry but Bud and Luella did the mark -up on 2200 machines. They could tell me about the days of the letter press, and “minding your “p’s and q’s” . It wasn’t long after that when production started talking a bout pagination. Wow. The days of the wax machines, exacto blades and rubber mats - the true “paste up” would go.

I remember the first time I heard a facsimile modem. I was working at the News-Press. It was 1982. The News-Press was a printing site for the newly launched USAToday, and the copy was sent to the plant by facsimile. I knew this because that’s what Al Neuharth told us. I was relieving the switchboard operator for her lunch, and noticed on her phone list a line that said, “facsimile” and a number following. So, curious george that I am, I dialed it. Wow did I get an earful. And speaking of switchboards, even in 1982 the switchboard was really a panel with buttons. I can remember back in the 60’s, and hanging out with my friends Donna and Marianne whose parents owned a resort. We used to run wild in “The Big House” and the switchboard was truly a switchboard with the trunks and chords and keys that you could turn to eavesdrop on calls. We all mimicked Lilly Tomlin.

I won’t venture into software, because I’ll get agitated. I learned lotus 1 2 and 3. How awful was that. Now, I’m having a fit because nothing works with Vista.

I’m buying a Mac.

Earlier today I used google to find directions to a friend’s home. Have you seen the Street View?! Good grief. Makes me want to go outside and wave. Who’s watching me now?

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