Friday, July 29, 2005

Hello Internet, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Computer

I'm a technophobe. After my entry about my AR turntable and Shure cartridge, it might not seem like that, but I am. I resist new technology for as long as possible, because it's always the same: at first, I have no confidence that I'll ever be able to master it. However, if I manage to overcome that, I embrace it completely. There ought to be a word for that, for those of us who start out as technophobes only to become technophiles, and maybe there is, but if so, I don't know it...

I was like that with computers. My ex is all about computers and technology, and I mean that as a sincere compliment. A lawyer, he had an elaborate word-processor in his office long before most people had a clue about word processing. As soon as they became available, we had a Commodore at home (remember those? And did I mention that we're both OLD? Water hadn't yet been discovered on this planet when we began dating...) Anyway, just because he was computer literate didn't mean I was.

I had an ancient IBM Selectric typewriter that I loved, and I could type about 90 wpm, so I saw no need to suffer the discomfort of becoming acquainted with a whole new form of technology like computers. That all changed when I was accepted into graduate school. It was late afternoon, and I was sitting in the office of the Professor who would eventually become my thesis advisor. He bore an eerie resemblance to Star Trek's Patrick Stewart, and I was in his office to be officially accepted into the psychology program to which I'd applied, and I was happy, but we were at the end of the interview and I was also tired and just wanted to go home. As I stood up to leave, he said, "You ARE computer literate?" "Um, not exactly, errrrrr, is that a requirement...???" He smiled cheerfully, VERY Patrick Stewart, and said, "Yes, it is! Well. You have 3 weeks!"

Aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh! Why had I even applied to grad school? I went home and made a couple of phone calls and voila...for better or worse (and it felt like worse) I was signed up at a local community college for an intense 3-week course that ran from 4 AM to 9 AM (those hours are SO not me) 4 days a week for the next 3 weeks.

It was grim, but by the time my grad school classes began, I was able to use a computer, in a rudimentary sort of way. I couldn't imagine that I was ever going to enjoy it, though.

Time passed, and I became more comfortable using a computer. One night my oldest daughter, Alex, discovered a search engine that gave not only addresses and phone numbers for names entered, but detailed street maps showing where people lived. This was pre-Google, and before internet stalking had become a problem. We were amazed, and put in the names of everyone we could think of, including ourselves, thrilled when we saw addresses, phone numbers and maps appear on the screen. The novelty wore off quickly though; we knew all those phone numbers, addresses, and cross streets already. "Can't you think of anyone with whom you've lost contact?" Alex asked in exasperation. I thought for a bit, and then typed in the name of G, my first love. He has an unusual last name, and I'd lost track of him in the '70's, but suddenly, there was his name, address, phone number, and map of the area around his house, in northern Illinois, on my computer screen. Wow. Fortunately for him, I'm not a stalker. I copied the info into my address book, and cleared the screen and forgot about it. Alex and I signed off and played scrabble.

That was that, until I realized G's 50th birthday was coming up. I bought a blank card. Inside I wrote something to the effect of, "I've always been glad that I met you, and that you were a part of my life. I hope this finds you well and happy. Happy 50th birthday." I sent it to the address we'd found using the search engine. About a week later, I received a reply from G, via snail mail, asking if I had e-mail and suggesting we use e-mail to catch up on each other's lives. There's nothing like having an incentive to get comfortable with new technology! My daughter showed me how to set up an e-mail account, and then I learned how to send, receive and check my e-mail; learning about attachments took another entire evening. One afternoon I received an e-mail from G asking if I'd like to chat with him on the net. He explained that he frequented a chatroom where we could effectively talk in real time, via our keyboards. He added, as an afterthought, "It's adult chat, but we're old enough, right?" I had no idea what adult chat was. I thought maybe people engaged in a little scatological humor from time to time. It was fine with me!

I cut and pasted the address he'd sent me into the address bar and suddenly a yellow page appeared on my monitor. I chose a nickname, typed it into a box, and suddenly I was in a room with a dozen other people. This was early net; I didn't have MERC or PERCH installed on my computer, nor was I even aware of their existence; I was in the room via a java applet. The people in that room were a lively and bawdy bunch, and I liked it immediately. It's hard to describe the magic that was there, but everyone had a persona, and the exchanges were fast and hilarious; sometimes I'd sit at my computer laughing so hard that tears streamed down my cheeks.


E said...

I have had to learn to love technology myself....your experience makes it worth it. I went onto my first chat room in had no idea what LOL, LMAO, or OMG was...I didn't last long in the chat room but I found journals a couple of years later. I have had to accept the fact that I am a tech tard,compared to some, but I have embraced my "tardness" and move forward. I have come a loong way baby. E

Debbi said...

I thought you were going to say the G you linked up with turned out not to be YOUR G (despite the unusual name), which you discovered when he lured you into a porno chat room and THEN because he knew your info he started stalking YOU and then....dum de dum dum.... Glad that wasn't the ending! I always hated it when older people would remark on the good 'ol days or the lost innocence of a bygone era, but every now and then something flashes me back to my past, stops me short and truly shows how different things were. This entry and a few others of yours have done that for me and I am enjoying them very much.

sierrajazz said...

My daughter helped me with everything when we first got a computer and I just kept muddling my way through it by trial and error and asking other people about things. I know a tiny bit more than the very basics but not much. It is fun and scary but it is hard to keep up with things if you don't have one. But WOW what dermination and drive you had to take that computer course and learn what you did in 3 weeks.. I admire people like that.