When I chose to retire early from my job as an editor, it was because of a new, unfamiliar element being introduced into the office.My beloved Underwood manual typewriter was going to be replaced by a COMPUTER
Sure, all the female members of the staff had switched over to an IBM selectix years ago, but in the sanctity of my cubicle, I still was able to punch out stories with two or three fingers, and punctuate the end of each line of type with a vicious swipe at the carriage return lever.
Sometimes my heavy-handed punching of the keys would lead to a massive jam which had to be unstuck and left my hands full of ink from the ribbon. This also led to many letters in a manuscript being mis-alligned, and many frosty stares from the competent typists who viewed my work.
The typists in the office looked forward to having computers, but I knew they would sound the death knell for me! After a furtive try at the keyboard of an un-attended computer, I was shocked at the way letters endlessly repeated themselves when I rested my hands on the keyboard.
The lack of that carriage return lever, and its satisfactory clunking sound of action was un-nerving. I never seemed to ever have to use a hyphen, for the diabolical machine always switched to the next line before I ever had a chance to decide where a hyphen was supposed to go!
So it was obvious - I could never cope with the electronic age. The only honorable course was for me to go, before I was exposed as the nincompoop of the writing staff!
A couple of years later when retirement was beginning to lose its novelty, I was persuaded to write a story about the WWII army unit I had served in. I dragged out the old Underwood, and was chagrinned to find that it had decided to retire by getting its carriage broken, and the keys covered with some sort of spilled paint.
Cautiously I shopped for a replacement and was shocked to find that they were only available in second-hand shops and Pawn shops. But word processors, I was assured, worked almost the same, and less expensive than a new Underwood (if one could be found)
In desperation I bought the word machine, and slowly (in a private area) started to tame this new demon which, like a spirited horse needed a light touch on the reins. I had some trouble with it at first, but an exceptionally intelligent (I thought) grandchild showed me how to cope with such things as a delete and a control key. I was shaken when I saw such things as a whole line of type being printed without the benefit of a key striking the paper!
Eventually, I bit the bullet, and admitted that perhaps I could learn the computer, and with the help of a bored, but friendly teen-aged salesperson took the plunge into the Electronic age!
My package from the store contained a computer, a printer, and miles and miles of cords and cables that all had a very specific place that they had to be attached to. Careful attention to the instructions (many times repeated) finally allowed me to produce a complete sentence! I thought I had become a "Geek"!
Weeks of frustration went by before I learned about modems. bauds, and servers. I was on my way to sending an e-mail! I now became a full fledged devotee with an e-mail address (all lower case letters, of course). Then came attachments, files, and...chat sites!
I found out about Browsers, search engines and disks. Floppys and CD's, and Zip disks. Macs and Pcs were differentiated in my mind, and 3.1, Win95 and Win98 all meant something to me. I used jpegs rather than bitmaps and stayed away from tiffs! Even though I was hungry at times, and the computer was loaded with cookies, I knew that I couldn't eat them. Netscape and Outlook Express didn't give me any better view out of my window.
The escape key does nothing to help me avoid the flood of acronyms that I now face. I tried MIRC and IM as well as ICU and ICUII. I used my browser to bring up Java, but alas it was only another program rather than a welcome cup of coffee.
My e-mail became clogged with jokes sent to me by stangers as well as friends, and I bought a virus shield. I was overwhelmed by information! ASCII, DOS, plain text, and exotic programs were all available. The dark side of the Web was revealed to me with "guest" visits to places that made a topless bar seem pristine! Links were no longer for Golf, but now led the way to Israel, Australia or Brooklyn, depending on my mood.
I was hooked! The teen aged salesman became my friend even though he led me down the primrose path to new programs, and eventually to Teleconferencing. By this time I was way ahead of all relatives of the same age, but barely on a par with my grandchildren. I sent pictures (taken with my new Digital camera), and learned the latest news direct from Indonesia and the space shuttle.
Was I at the peak of proficiency? No. It was time to upgrade my memory and get a new hard drive. A seperate phone line for the computer was imperative so that the rest of the family could make and receive calls while I was "on the computer!"
Birthday and seasonal greeting cards were no longer bought in stores, but manufactured...and customized at will. The new scanner now reproduced pictures and documents without the necessity of visits to the drug store. "Idiot" and "Dummy"books for computer buffs replaced the classics on my bookshelves.
No one talked
to me anymore, except on e-mail, and I forgot the Post Office address of friends
who did not have e-mail. My handwriting deteriorated at the same rate that my
typing skill increased, and the most desired words that I looked for all day
became...."You've Got Mail'!!!
And so, as I go into the advanced state of retirement, I now realize that the Electronic Age has not only caught up with me, but has engulfed me and will control me till the day when my computer will not re-boot because I have gone to the world beyond the Millenium!
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