Copyright © 2007 Henrietta W. Hay
Seeing the Computer
June 1, 2007
The concept and development of the computer is surely the outstanding technological advance of the 20th century. It has changed the way industry and governments function. They allow the secretary in Detroit to send a memo to the manager in Bahrain in a second. They are, as Thomas Friedman says, making the world flat.
But personal computers are quite a different matter. They sit on the desks of millions individuals all over the world and fill cyberspace with personal messages.
Personal computers have two classes of user - well three.
Nearly everyone under 15 is an expert. I think they were born knowing which key to punch to get from Word to Office. A number of years ago, 26 to be exact, I went to Phoenix to visit my family, including Ian, age 4. I took my brand new computer game, Atari I think, with me, intending to teach him how to play a computer game.
Somewhat to my surprise, he taught me.
But among those people past adolescence, the computer is either a wonderful tool and joy to use, or a constant aggravation. I am in the former class, although I am certainly don't know as much as any normal teenager. Of all the inanimate things I have ever played with, the computer is number one.
But I have learned a great lesson this year, and I give the advice freely.
Never, ever combine a new computer with its upgraded programs with a period of decreasing vision due to macular degeneration. My computer guru assured me that the Word program would have everything the old one had, and more, but it would be arranged differently. Well, hat word, "differently" has a new meaning now.
I am convinced that I could have moved into the new Word program without too many problems -- if I could have seen the fine print. If I want to tell the computer to toss this in the trash because it's no good, I have to start over. Where, oh where is the trash? And if I want to save the column I am working on somewhere that I can find it easily forget it.
The problem is the fact that I can't read the commands most of which are printed in small blue letters. Fortunately I have several friends who are experts. One of them found a magnifier program that can make the smallest print readable. And the Word program can print up to 72 ems.
I remember Mildred Shaw, who used to write for the Sentinel, and who lost her eyesight to macular degeneration. She continued to "read" by whatever method she could and gave highly intellectual reviews. She is an inspiration.