Before the computer became as much a fixture in our house as the sofa and silverware, I slept well at night and ate regular meals with my family. I coffee-clatched more with friends, knew my children’s ages without mentally referencing their birth dates, and was out of my pajamas before high noon.
Back in that day, the top of our writing desk was home to family photos in seashell studded frames, and the drawers were filled with stationery, carbon paper and WITE OUT. Life was good and I was content, BC -Before the Computer.
Taunted by peer pressure to “get with it or get left behind,” we dipped our big toes into the murky waters of The Home Computer and sought advice from would-be experts in this new field. Hubby and I wrangled more over recommended models (MAC or PC?) and points of purchase (“I know a guy who builds them in his garage…”) than we ever did naming our children. Finally, we cleared off the top of our desk for a behemoth desktop and made room in the drawers for a few floppies.
Unpacking the ponderous PC, which we ultimately named “Darned Thing,” was as unnerving as disarming an explosive device. And then there was that mammoth monitor, and miles of cables and piles of plugs to address. It takes less time to gestate an elephant than it did for us to interpret the “Getting Started” instructions-written in every language but English. The assembly process was enough to test even the strongest marriage; but on May 10, 1989, we held our collective breath, fired up Darned Thing and were catapulted over the chasm that separates ordinary from WHOA! – marriage still intact.
I doubt that Dorothy was as bewitched, bothered or bewildered when she tumbled into Oz as was I when I gingerly pressed that ON button. Dorothy had only a scarecrow, a tin man and a lion to contend with, whereas I was accosted by a binary barrage of BIOS, Backups, Bits and Bytes. New language with word weaponry like database, default, DOS and disk drive defied definition; directives including download, drag, debug and defrag were demobilizing. Life in AC (After the Computer) was definitely not for sissies.
The wild ride got wilder when blue screens with warnings like SYSTEM FAILURE and REINSTALL reeled me into the Black Hole of Cyber Space, rending my garments and demolishing my confidence. Not since the days of potty training our wee ones had I encountered such savage frustration and futility.
But quicker than you can say “Harry the Hacker Handed a Hard-copy to Henrietta,” I was hooked –and hooked hard. It didn’t take long when, not only could I not recall my children’s birth dates, I was hard pressed to recall their names.
FAST FORWARD 25+ years. The fourth desktop in this saga now lives on the top of our desk; and as each system became more user-friendly, this user became more awestruck by its capabilities. Composing a document without WITE OUT and flipping between ENTER and DELETE have opened new worlds to me, although I haven’t a clue what to do with Excel or Power Point. I tip my mouse and tilt my keyboard to the techies and brainiacs whose genius plow paths to progress; but you can bet the farm on it: when I reach the three-way intersection of PC, laptop and IPad in my computer journey, I’ll probably choose the PC route, every time.
Darned Thing and I will never be BFF’s, but we’ve come to an under-standing: If it doesn’t pin me to the wall to learn all the A’s to Z’s of the PC, I promise not to throw it against the wall when it dismisses my commands or threatens to blackmail me into adopting social media as a second language. Call me old (and so I am), but the very thought of cyber sharing with and exposing my innermost thoughts and opinions through “hash-tags” makes my liver quiver. As for Candy Crush and Farmville – make mine M&M’s and KFC, thank you.
The archaic (by today’s standards) machine that caused me night terrors in the past still makes me cry in my coffee when NO SIGNAL and TROJAN HORSE VIRUS flash on a blue screen; but I’ll fret nevermore over entities like gibibytes, gigabytes and gigaflops, as long as I can giggle when I Google and stay within the nebulous lines of cyber etiquette.
As for that cute little “Skype camera” Daughter gifted to me at Christ-mas: The way I figure it, my cousin in Utah and my sister in Idaho don’t need to see me typing in my pajamas.
Nancy Clark and her husband, Tom, rejoice in more than a half century of marriage, three children, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She dabbles in freelance and memoir writing when she isn’t baking, knitting, reading, sewing and building jigsaw puzzles.