Copyright © 2004 Henrietta W. Hay
The Computer in my Life
March 12, 2004
You remember the nursery rhyme about the little girl, "When she was good
she was very, very good, and when she was bad she was horrid." Well,
that describes the home computer for those of us who do not understand
the mechanics of the thing. Fortunately the computer is like the good
little girl almost all the time, but when it's not, it's a major pain.
It's really very simple, so they tell me. I'm sailing along doing
whatever needs to be done today, and suddenly without warning something
goes wrong and I have a crisis on my hands. I have no idea how to fix
it. I am lost until I can get one of my computer gurus out here to
solve the problem.
Computers are magical machines that have practically taken over the
world. But I stick pretty much to the Internet, Word and Quicken.
Quicken is the accounting program that lets me keep track of my
finances, such as they are. The latest crisis occurred as I was
getting my papers and figures together to take to the accountant who
does my taxes when -- WOW -- the floppy disk that I keep my backup on
had a convulsion or something. Anyway, it died. I yelled for help, but
the time I got help and a new floppy drive ,and we got everything
"fixed" -- the last half of the 2003 financial entries were missing. I
mean they just weren't there. There are various grades of
non-life-threatening crises, and that one is close to the top.
The story does have a happy ending. Fortunately, a Mac guru came out
and retrieved the missing entries. Quicken has lots of backups if you
know where to find them. I didn't, but I do now. I was able to take an
honest, accurate batch of figures and receipts to the tax man.
But crises like that don't happen very often and nothing can spoil the
miracle of the program I use most, the word processor. It's hard to
imagine the time before writers had computers. We hear that Abraham
Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address in pencil on the back of an
envelope on his way to the battlefield. It must have been a fairly
large envelope and the story is probably fictitious But it does remind
us that pencils or pens have been the tools of the writer for centuries.
And now we have this wonderful, versatile machine and a word processor
that keeps writers sane, more or less. Certainly for a writer it is --
to borrow from the younger generation -- awesome! I go merrily along,
typing thoughts, having occasional inspirations, throwing them out,
retyping them, being sure there are no split infinitives, counting the
words, adding some more, moving them around. In fact, I have moved this
paragraph three times and may decide yet that it belongs someplace
else. And when I need to know a date, I switch over to the Web and
ask Google. When I need to know the history of pencils, I ask Google.
When I need to know who said what in Congress, I ask Google. Google
knows everything. Google is at the moment, the leading search engine.
E-mail is a gem. It keeps scattered families in touch. I check my
e-mail in the morning before I have my coffee to see what my kids are
doing. E-mail connects the whole world. For a little while I was
corresponding with a person in Scotland. I had no idea whether it was a
man or woman, but he/she was quite surprised to learn that Colorado was
Nothing is perfect, including computers. But I find myself agreeing
with Marshall McLuhan that, "The computer is by all odds the most
extraordinary of the technological clothing ever devised by man. Beside
it the wheel is a mere hula hoop."