Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Web Secret #315: my electronic journey

The other day I started to think about my long standing relationship with computers - astonishingly it goes back 40 years.

Though I was always intrigued, I did not fall in love right away.

Late 1960s - I go to a meeting of the 8th grade computer science club. Club activity seems to center primarily around creating punch cards which are in turn fed into a machine that produces a simple data output. Does not meet my expectation of the computing experience, primarily gleaned from watching Captain Kirk speaking to the Starship Entreprise's computer.

Mid 1970s - still looking for a computing high, I enter the Yale University Computer Science Lab. It's late at night and the room is filled with computers that emit a greenish glow against a black background. Everyone seems to be playing Star Trek, a text-based computer game that puts the player in command of the USS Enterprise on a mission to hunt down and destroy an invading fleet of Klingon warships. The game is played by laboriously inputing coordinates which in turn control the photon torpedoes necessary to annihilate a Klingon ship. A single move can take minutes. The screen shows dots and blips representing ships. (See top left photo of a typical Star Trek screen. Not quite as engaging as your nephew's "Call of Duty: Black Ops.") This is not for me.

Early 1980s - I go to the upper West Side apartment of one of my Columbia University social work graduate students. We are writing a manual together. She owns the very first home computer I have ever seen: an uninspiring word processor with a tiny screen. The screen fills with the words we are writing together. I know the machine is very expensive. In fact, she is the only person I know who has one. I am still uninspired.

1991 - I work in one of the satellite offices of a large national employee assistance program (EAP). The only person who has a computer is the secretary. You wouldn't know it, but she is the most powerful person in the entire office because she is the only one who knows how to operate this machine. The machine does only two things, word processing and Excel. One day we get a memo from company headquarters: "anyone interested in learning Word and Excel can do so on company time." Interested parties will receive VHS instructional tapes. I'm sick of depending on the secretary for my correspondence, so I sign up. I am the only one in the office to do this.

1996 - I am now the Director of Account Management at an EAP in Manhattan. I am given my first office computer, a Mac PowerBook which I do not know how to operate, having previously used a PC. My boss, upon noting that my resume stated proficiency in Word and Excel, promptly puts me in charge of making everyone in the office computer literate. My target population is 25 social workers and psychologists who have also just been given PowerBooks. Not only do they not know anything about computers, but they hate them. And they are highly resistant to being converted. Fortunately, I have an ally: our Apple tech support guy Nathan. Nathan is a disgruntled former attorney turned Mac support person. He knows about computers and is actually able to use the English language to explain them. He teaches me. Eventually, I teach everyone in the office how to word process and send e-mail.

1999 - I learn how to use Microsoft Publisher to create corporate newsletters.

2001 - with a partner I create a .com ePartTimeJobs - it fails

2005 - I learn HTML

2008 - I attend a social media boot camp. Five minutes into the camp, I learn about blogging and fall madly in love. I start this blog.

2009 - I get an iPhone3GS.

2010 - I get a MacBook Pro and a first generation iPad.

2012 - I get an iPhone 4s.

2013 - I get an iPad Mini.

2014 - I lose my 4s and get a 5c (just to tide me over until the 6 comes out.)

This is going to be a very long affair.

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