In the days before computers, there was the typewriter, a clattering tool that has played so many roles in movies and has inspired songwriters to incorporate the rhythmic clank into their compositions.
I was a youngster in High School, where they taught us all sorts of skills, BUT not the useful merits of typing. I had the wisdom to sign up for typing classes in the nearby YWCA. Probably as much for meeting the young girls in the class (I was the only boy) as much as learning this new skill. Not only did I realize the value of typing, but continued to take a course in Gregg Shorthand…that was truly a marginal skill in my career development but useful for taking notes in a lecture course.
I soon forgot my shorthand, but my typing has paid-off during my entire career. I felt it so important, that when I was first dating Erica and contemplated marriage, I made it a condition that she learn to type. (She NEVER did!) It showed the first crack in my many broken resolution over our lives together. She wrote 20 books and I, like a good husband, typed them all for her. I must confide to you, she scribbled in illegible long hand and could NEVER get it right the first time. Corrections were hell (you could not press the delete button, you had to rip up page after page of hard written copy and start over!) I am NOT a patient man and it is a wonder that we are still married after 52 years!
But I am digressing from the point. Remember the early days of computing? Not the mainframe stuff of offices but the Home Computer. I bought my first one at the insistence of my daughter Vanessa, who threatened to teach me how to use it. It was a small TV like box by Apple…the printers were impression type with continuous rolls of paper that rattled as loudly and without the rhythmic cadence of the typewriter. It was best to locate them in a separate room or closet. One feature of these early machines was: It was guaranteed that if you didn’t press the save button every ten minutes, you were sure to loose it in the next minute. There was a special feature called auto save that took me years to learn. The memory factor was painfully small and all items needed to be stored on small cassettes. Memory storage became more sophisticated: we went from cassettes, to external storage contraptions, to discs, to CDs and finally to memory sticks, and printers became small, silent plain paper varieties that break the bank replacing ink cartridges.
The industry moved at an alarmingly fast pace and you had to be a millionaire to keep up with the changes. It was well known that when Apple introduced a new model it was technically already obsolete. I moved “up” every few years behind the hotshots who kept up with the semiannual introductions. I remember my friend, Scott Morgan (a real computer Guru) trying to update me and fill my head with the new stuff that I couldn’t possibly understand. We moved from the TV box computer to the first laptops, heavy devices that were hardly portable. Bigger was better until you tried opening them in an economy seat on your flight to Timbuktu… the passenger in front of you invariably would crush your screen as he reclined his seat for the duration of the flight. In self-defense, I finally bought the smallest Mac with a 12” screen, so that I could work even as my fellow passenger was sleeping in my lap.
When it comes to computer designing, I am computer illiterate. I am truly at the kindergarten level of computerism. Students take three years to complete design courses. I do know how to hover over my assistants and guide their hands to the curves I want to express. (An often-frustrating experience when I remember how quickly I can do it with a pencil and paper.)
Today I am a computer renegade. While everyone else’s screen is a clean slate ready for the day’s work ahead, mine is a checkerboard of colored windows. I counted 94 open files! I am of the school that “A clean desk is the sign of a sick mind”. If I don’t see it in front of me…its lost in a hidden file. My computer looks like my desk. But,“chaque un a san gout” to each his own.
Over the years, I became quite proficient with this wonderful tool while Erica has remained in the dark ages. I still type her manuscripts, but with much less frustration…our marriage may last!... And oh yes, my daughter Vanessa now comes to me for computer guidance!