Monday, 2 June 2008

Computers for the Confused!

My first brush with the 'personal computer' was an old 386 back in 1991. Being the part owner of a construction company (the part that did all the secretarial work!) that my husband had started a few years before, when it came time to retire my old electric typewriter he decided it really was time to get computerised. I fought long and hard - all I wanted was a fancy new electronic typewriter - but in the end, after being told that this new computer would DO everything, I capitulated and the 386 came to live in our office.

It was UGLY! It took up too much space and it just SAT there on my desk, staring blankly at me! I was told it 'did the books' and it 'typed letters'. It was supposed to be the beginning of the 'paperless office' and the ultimate time saver. I switched it on and little white letters and symbols floated about on a black screen - unintelligible gibberish and hard to read at that! I tried to type and it produced a string of gibberish and requests to 'press enter'?? After a week of this frustrating behaviour, I shoved it on the floor and retrieved my electric typewriter from the cupboard! And then, we employed a 'computer man' to tame the wild beast!

I did eventually come to understand the basics of MsDos and even managed to get to grips with letter typing but that really was about as far as it got. The First Born, on the other hand, had a strange affinity with this monstrous machine from the very beginning. He was only 10 or 11 when it arrived and it took him only a few short weeks to master it and there began his fascination and understanding of all things computer. He would spend hours after school programming it and changing settings and generally making sure his mother would have the hardest time getting into it the next morning when he was at school! We eventually came to an understanding - if he changed anything on it, he would have to put a 'post-it' on the screen with simple instructions on how to switch on and find my work. All was well until it blew itself up a couple of years later and into our lives came the mighty 486 Pentium.

Weren't we proud of our new baby? Along with this latest technology came Windows, WYSIWYG, mice and mousepads! It also came with a full colour monitor and lots of RAM, ROM, floppy drives, stiffy drives and (my personal favourite!) a place to plug a set of earphones in! I also remember having some fantastic programmes that I could print transfers for t/shirts with and a really great desktop publisher that could make columns and insert pictures. I felt technically rich beyond belief! I remember doing the in house magazine for our Arab Horse Society that year and what a pleasure it was compared to previous years. By then the First Born was a whizz with computers and had gone on to complete his City and Guilds certificates with flying colours to become a fully trained Computer Technician.

As I sit here typing this on my little laptop, it's hard to remember what a mission it was in the early days - how big the machines were and how little they were able to do! I suppose, if I were to think about, the speed with which new technology develops and grows is quite amazing and it is very hard to keep up sometimes. I like to think that I was a pioneer of earlier days!

And when it comes to understanding all this new technology, all I can say is - thank god for teenagers!



keith hillman said...

Hi Jayne

There was something special about the sound of a typewriter - all clicks and dings! As for me, I have recently re-discovered the joy of pen and ink.

Jayne :) said...

Hi Keith

The only problem with pen and ink is trying to keep a pen within handy reach! I gave that up years ago - at least the laptop has a user password that makes it unattractive to other members of my family - lol

Thanks for stopping by - I'm afraid this poor blog has been sadly neglected. I seem to have lost my propensity for words since I got here :(

Anonymous said...


I sit here with my new laptop in a hotel lobby in Tunisia, taking advantage of their free wifi, and I think of when my next-door neigbour bought a Commodore 64, which took about half an hour to boot up using audio tape.

He offered to teach me how to use it, and I well remember saying:

'Bugger off, Dave! Life's too short!'


Keith K.

Jayne :) said...

Hey Keith K, how very nice to hear from you - even from Tunisia you smarmy critter! :)

We are all challenged - just some more than others! sigh!

jadey said...

Jayne great post. So true the machines were huge and ugly lol
and hello to you I have missed you. my blog is back up and running but a new link so click my name and come visit me.