Sunday, September 05, 2010

On My Love/Hate Relationship With Technology

I'm glad I grew up in the years before ubiquitous hi-tech devices. Even though I can appreciate the utility of such cell phone apps (I don't care to learn their names) as those that allow one to learn everything about anything wherever one is (provided, of course, that one has a signal), I appreciate even more my ability to learn all I need to know without electricity. My heart goes out to all people who lack low-tech survival skills. They would be among the first to perish in a prolonged power outage. If ever the "shit goes down," many would probably end up as Survivalist Brand dog food (patent pending), having very little worth otherwise.

The "computer lab" at my high school had maybe ten early 1980's model dinosaurs; they looked sort of like the one pictured above, but they might have been Apples. I recall there being two or three students per machine. I don't remember being able to do very much on them; the hard drive and floppy disks had next to no capacity (I think my stove has more memory). We couldn't even play games on them, so basically they were useless.

I was fortunate enough to have taken Mr. Mudd's typing class. I was one of maybe four guys in a class of over twenty; it was my favorite class. I would memorize the piece we were going to type, then when I typed it I would check out all the pretty young women in my class. To me, there was (is) something inherently sexy about a woman concentrating (on anything, generally, but on typing or on me specifically). It might merely be a case of arrested development, or it could be that for a male heterosexual homo sapiens, seeing a woman so focused is one of the finer aspects of existence.

I took the typing class at my mother's behest; she was a typist by trade, but she had no interest in typing her kids' school papers. She had started out typing term papers, Master's theses and Doctoral dissertations, along with my father's lecture notes. She became a notereader for a court reporter shortly after our return from England in 1977. She ended up becoming a scopist, when she and her boss agreed to end their resistance to computers in the early 1990's. Between them, they created a dictionary of over 50,000 words in less than a year. Thanks to faxes, Fedex, and the internet, she continued working for the same reporter for about ten years after she moved over a thousand miles from Maryland. She retired when her boss finally wrapped up his career, a couple of months before she died.

As is evident in my activity here, I am at long last coming to terms with (if not actually embracing) some modern technology; however, I will remain here behind the curve where I'm comfortable.

When my wife acquired our (her) computer on Mother's Day, we went out and bought several educational programs for our son. He had already spent some time on my mother-in-law's computer, so he took to the one at home right away. It serves as a good supplemental teaching tool; it reinforces many of the lessons we're giving him off-line. He will very soon surpass me in terms of general computer skills; a brief anecdote illustrates this clearly.

One Saturday morning in the middle of June, my wife decided that we should go down to Holly Beach. When she told Brendan where we were going, he asked, "How do we get there?" My wife told him that we drive to Highway 27 and turn south, then keep going until we reach the beach. He replied, "I'll map it." I was cooking breakfast, and Mrs. Peter was drinking coffee and watching TV in the recliner. After a couple of minutes she leaned over to see what he was doing on the computer. On the screen was a map showing maybe a fifty-mile radius from our house, which included Holly Beach. We were impressed.

He had awakened the computer, gotten onto Google Maps, typed in be and scrolled down to Bed, Bath & Beyond. The result was the aforementioned map which, had we needed one, would have suited our needs perfectly. The boy's not three years old yet!

My focus for my son now will be to teach him all the old-school skills I can. He asked me just this morning, "When are you going to take me fishing, Daddy?" "As soon as I'm done on the computer." "I'm done." "Let's go..."


Charlene said...

The computer you picture is an IBM PC. We started business in the fall of 1979 and in the spring of 1980 we bought one of those computers and a small dot matrix printer for $5000. It was the very latest possible computer a small business could buy. There wasn't a hard drive. There were 2 5 1/4" floppy drives and when I wanted to sort something, I had to sort a file from 1 drive to the other and I could only work with about 2000 records at a time.

It was obsolete about the time we threw out the boxes.

Peter said...

Thanks for clarifying things a bit for me; my ignorance of this subject stands as proof of my once-assiduous eschewal of it. I do marvel at how far we've come since then. I suppose maybe I was waiting for all the kinks to get worked out before I bothered with it. BTW, why might my computer be having trouble resolving hosts and proxies??? What are hosts and proxies? Damn computers!