Monday, April 4, 2016

C is for ... Computers

Seeing as my theme for the month is writing related, I suppose I could have chosen something like Commas, or Characters, or Colons and Semi-colons for today's post, but instead I chose to talk about something near and dear to my (and so many other writers) heart. Namely, my computer.

Do you remember your first computer? I remember mine. It had a monochrome monitor (amber on black, unlike the more common green on black), two floppy drives (and we're talking the 5 1/4 inch floppies here), 250K of RAM and a 40 meg hard drive. That's right people, 40 megabytes.

You notice the lack of a mouse. There were no mice for computers back then. Nor were there any windows. You typed commands in using something called DOS - Disk Operating System. It was kind of fun actually, like a secret language. You'd turn on your computer and you'd get a DOS prompt: C:\ blinking at you. Say you wanted a list of files that were on your computer. You'd type in: C:\>dir and a list of all the files on your computer would appear. Then you'd just select the file you wanted to work on and away you'd go.

It sounds like a lot of work, but prior to this I'd hand write my stories and then type them up on a typewriter like this:

Okay, so maybe my typewriter was electric and had one of those little buttons you could hit that would backspace over a mistake and leave a smudge of while correction tape in its place, but I do actually have one of those old Underwood typewriters, although mine is a bit dustier. And I may even have a page or two in my files somewhere that was typed on that typewriter, but I digress.

It did take me a couple of years to be comfortable enough with the computer that I would actually compose on it. It was just too easy somehow - if you made a mistake you just had to backspace over it. Or highlight it and click delete. With a typewriter, even a self-correcting one, you still could fix only so many errors before you'd have to re-type the whole page.

I did not learn to type in high school, thank God. No f f f f j j j j for me, thanyouverymuch. I learned to touch type in business college. There were no letters on the typewriter, just blank keys. We sat in a dark room and watched a lighted screen on the wall at the front of the classroom. I learned to type in two weeks and to this day I can still type in the dark. My typing speed on an electric typewriter was about 40 words a minute. On that first computer? I pretty much doubled it.

I had no connection to the internet. I'm not even sure there was an internet back then. ;-) Okay, I may be exaggerating just a tad, but the internet was definitely beyond my means at that time. It would be several years and at least two computer upgrades before I was on-line, and in those days it was via dial-up access, which meant that when you were online you were tying up the phone line.

My printer, at that time, was a dot matrix printer. Anyone out there remember them? You fed fanfold paper into them and they'd spit out pages of text that had to be separated along their perforated edges, and the text was made up of little dots which publishers found incredibly annoying.

Today my printer is a wireless Cannon Pixmar and I use a Samsung notebook with 6 GB of RAM, something like 600 GB of space on the hard drive, and wireless access to the internet. My typing speed is faster than ever and I have no problem whatsoever composing on my laptop.

I've come a long way baby! :-)


Laura said...

Yes! Computers and practice did wonders for my typing speed as well. I was between jobs once and applied for a secretary job. I typed the sample page multiple times in the period of time allotted. The woman did a double take and I wondered what other people typed like. :-)

Computers are wonderful (and hateful) things!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Thanks for the memories. I learned to type in school on a manual typewriter. Giving away my age here. :) My first computer was an Apple McIntosh, I think. Don't remember a lot about it except I didn't have to use carbon paper to have copies of my stories. Since then I've had several computers. I'm actually learning how to use them. The Internet is great too, and printing is so nice. Make as many copies as I want.
Have a good week. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

CDMCarter said...

Boy did THAT bring back memories! Wonderful post. I remember having a hard time TRUSTING typing on a computer. (At the moment I'm loving my little Chromebook!) It seemed as if my writing was there one minute then accidentally gone the next! Yes, that still happens occasionally. But it's usually operator error. The thing that impressed me the most about computers was going to his lordship's office and looking into their special room that housed the servers. MAN! They were BIG suckers. No carpet on the floor, cold temp... It was like something out of a sci-fi movie. Now the server for their office sits under his desk. I guess that's come a long way, too! :D

CDMCarter said...

I keep forgetting to leave my signature as I'm not on Blogger. Sorry.

Impromptu Promptlings

Amy Morris-Jones said...

My young sons just recently found my old electric typewriter in the basement (why am I keeping that thing?!). They thought it was the most exciting thing ever! They spent hours typing long strings of random characters and asking questions about "the old days" when people used those things regularly! Oh, I feel old now! Nice C post! --Amy @

J E Oneil said...

All this stuff is so frightening. A 40 meg hard mouse?! Are you telling scary stories this month?

Yvonne Ventresca said...

Yes, I remember DOS! Oh my. The horrors.

About leaving comments in Wordpress -- try using a different browser? I have a problem leaving comments on some blogs using Chrome.


S. T. Lakata said...

I remember DOS! I played Doom II and Star Wars: Tie Fighter with my parents' first computer. I also remember the encyclopedia CD we owned had a voice-over by Patrick Stewart.

Stephanie Ingram said...

Once upon a time I had a typewriter! Even with the self-correcting tape, it was a lot harder to write on than a computer. Thank goodness for computers. I am very personally attached to mine to the point of giving him a name. :-) Great post!

alberta ross said...

ah DOS that bring backs memories (not so long ago really) I trained mine to say hiya when switched on and then ask how I was - respond when I answered , then we get down to DIR and work. Before that my manual typewriter which I still have and my fathers very old one - I didn't like the electric ones.

dot matrix yes still have some stuff typed on that in my stack of early attempts at creating, also a lot of my university work was on that paper, printers were just changing over then in UK.

I never did learn to type properly - despite going to secretarial college for a while. I am was and still am a five fingered type-er - two on one hand three on the other!