Well, this week’s blog is definitely going to date me. In my Communications Technology class we are studying the chapters on personal computers and video games. The question posed was when and in what context did we first become exposed to personal computers. The first time I can remember using a personal computer was when my Dad had purchased one for his business, and I worked part time for him in my late high school years. It was one of those old Radio Shack Tandy’s, with an MS-Dos text based operating system, and the 5” floppy disk drive. Anybody remember those?
My Dad had programmed some of his own software for inventory and billing using BASIC programming, and he taught me how to use it and play some rudimentary games, such as connect the dots, and tennis. It had the monochrome screen and all, and when I think back at that time, this piece of equipment gave me a thrill like nothing else. Little did I know, I would become a tech junkie, as I was certainly mesmerized by this new technology. This experience became the twinkle of inspiration that preceded my post high school education decision. I went on to study computer science in college in which we used similar model PC’s, still no graphic based operating system, but instead of white on black, it was green on black, I believe. It was during this time that I learned word processing, (with very rough Wordperfect software in those days) and the fundamentals of several different programming languages, BASIC, COBOL, and FORTRAN. I finished a two year degree, with a minor in accounting, except I ended up going the accounting route rather than the computer science route in the job market, so things took a bit of a turn. My first job out of college was as a bookkeeper for a veterinarian and animal hospital. There were no computers there, everything was done manually. I did manual journal entries, using a double entry system and I can not even remember what it was called, but I used the green accounting ledger paper. We kept the animal records on note cards and filed them in card boxes alphabetically. All the accounts were also kept in note card size file boxes. This type of job, which was a full-time position, could be done today in just a few hours per week with today’s technology. It wasn’t until my third employer in a larger company that I actually got on-the-job experience with computers. Back then only the large companies had computers, all the smaller companies still did everything manually.
I remember when I had heard of this amazing new operating system called “Windows”, which came out in the mid ‘90’s. I was beside myself with excitement when my employer, a large oil company, upgraded to this new system. I was in paradise, as Windows was simply remarkable, –so pleasing to the eye, user friendly, and LOTS of bells and whistles to pay with! Shortly thereafter, I purchased my very own first home PC. It was a used Hewlett Packard I purchased from a friend. I had heard about the “World Wide Web”, and the internet, and just thought the concept was the most intriguing thing ever! I could not wait to start “surfing”. At the time, it was also all about AOL, (or Netscape) and I remember so distinctly that “twang twang” sound of the dial up modem. It is kind of a haunting sound.
I spent hours and hours, sometimes staying up into the wee hours of the morning, reading the newsgroup emails in which I had become a member. Through these newsgroups came my first knowledge and continued study of Aromatherapy, medicinal herbs, and what later became a home crafted soapmaking hobby/small business. This phase of my life, (I call it my Craftsman Era) lasted nearly ten years, and that of which I still follow the philosophies of nature’s rewards to health. It was also a learning experience on internet based communication etiquette. “No Flaming!” And boy, were people mean and hateful at times in these newsgroups. I mean, you never had to lay eyes on these folks in real life, you could say whatever you want!
Many hours were also passed playing around and downloading games and desktop wallpaper and screensavers, and beautifying my desktop. I remember spending hours playing the old MS-Dos text based adventure games, and later was amazed by the 3d graphic games. I downloaded so much stuff, my meager couple gig hard drive quickly filled up, then I filled up the little 3” floppies with wallpaper and screensavers I had collected, which only held 1.3 MB’s, so that soon became frustrating as well. You can not even find content now that will fit onto one of those little floppies, and I still have a drawer full of them, complete with the wallpapers and screensavers I had downloaded. I do not know why I have not gotten rid of them. I think I will put that on my “to do” list.
Things happened so fast after that, it was hard to keep up with all the new games, technology, and software coming out. The Pentium processor was introduced, which offered power and speed, and hard drives got bigger and bigger and RAM doubled, tripled, quadrupled, every year, it seems. My next pc was a Packard Bell. I might have those two mixed up, but one was a 387 and the next was a 487 or something similar. Both were pretty slow and frustrating, and the novelty quickly wore off due to the time it took to do whatever it was I wanted to do. Some years later I finally upgraded to a Dell which had an Intel Celeron processor, produced between the Pentium I and II, with Windows XP. It seems as soon as I purchased that, they were coming out with the Pentium III and IV. I still had the dial up modem in the first year or so with the Dell, but later added broadband service when I moved to Louisville almost seven years ago. So that upgrade, as you can imagine, was a dream come true for the ability to enjoy the speed of broadband after dealing with a dial up modem. I kept the Dell for maybe five or six years until two years ago, when I bought my current Toshiba laptop with the Intel Core Duo processor, and Windows Vista. That was nice not having to sit at a desk to play or work on the computer, as it made my neck hurt after so many hours. I contemplated getting a Mac, since I work with a lot of graphics and photos, but I decided to hang about with the familiar. However, I do at some point want to get a Mac and learn that system as well. My Toshiba is a pretty nice computer. It has fingerprint recognition, so that is pretty cool. At the time I purchased it, it was top of the line and the most current system available. Now, the latest and greatest are the Intel Core i5 processors with “Turbo-Boost”, “Hyper-Threading”, and HD technologies, 500G hard drive, and built in satellite card.
How have computers changed my life? Right now I can not imagine a day without my computer. If I had to give up every possession except one thing, it would be my computer that I would keep. I just could not function without it. It is kind of like the television has been in the past few decades. Rarely families go a single day without turning on the television. I could live, begrudgingly, without my HDTV, if I was forced, but not without my laptop and internet access. I have spent some days without turning on the television, but never a day without turning on the computer. I think I might just shrivel up and die without my laptop.
I also have to say a word or two about web browsers. Last week, one of my professors made the announcement that Internet Explorer was not functioning well with our University blackboard. It used to be Internet Explorer 8 was not compatible, but apparently they are having issues with IE in general. So he advised to take the exam using Firefox. I had heard of Firefox, but not to the great extent that would prompt me to try it out. I downloaded it, and I immediately witnessed an amazing transformation of the speed that my laptop should exhibit. I have recently had so many problems with sluggishness, lockups, and just getting IE to load was a struggle. Lately, I have had to close it out several times a day, and it was slowing down everything on my computer, not just internet. I was spending an inordinate amount of time waiting on stuff to happen. I even got locked up a couple of times taking exams last semester, and anyone who has taken an online course knows that once you start an exam, there is no turning back, if your internet connection dies, you are SOL, and hopefully you will have an understanding enough professor to allow an email submission. I blamed it on my broadband service, or my laptop, thinking I had too many photos that I should move over to my external hard drive. I could not believe the difference since I started using Firefox, and I am left wondering why more people do not talk about the wonder of this browser, much less why Microsoft can not crack that puzzle. I have not turned back once since I downloaded it, as this browser is my new friend for life. I told my mom about the browser and made her download it also, which she did. I don’t think she is as enthusiastic about it as I am, but she does admit that it is faster. I wonder what other secrets are out there that I do not yet know, if anyone cares to enlighten me, please knock yourselves out!