Copyright © 2008 Henrietta W. Hay
The Computers in My Life
July 4, 2008
In 1946, just a year after we came to Grand Junction, something very exciting happened, but I didn't know anything about it. ENIAC, the first electronic computer, started churning out answers. It weighed 30 tons, occupied 1800 square feet and used 18,000 standard vacuum tubes. It was not too handy a gadget to stick in your office, but its builders had unleashed a monster that has taken over the world.
Now, some 62 years later, the computer that sits on my desk is 6"x6"x2" and holds more programs and memory than I could ever use.
OK, so I am a personal computer nut. After all, I need a hobby in my old age. All of us do. And I need some way to write when I can't see very well.
My first meeting with a computer occurred when I was working in the Grand Junction City Library (later the Mesa County Library). Once a week we carried the big check-out cards to the computer room and sorted them on the huge computer that took up most of the room.
Then I heard about little ones. I wanted one of those newfangled machines that you could fit into your house without having to move the kids out. I took a deep breath and blew myself to a Radio Shack TRS 80.
I learned Basic language, which today's programmers read about only in the history books. I have remnants of it, programs written in Basic and printed on four inch wide strips of silvery paper. The TRS 80 is now in the same class as the horse and buggy and I feel sure that one is resting in the Smithsonian. I wish I still had mine.
Then in 1979 my computer savvy son introduced me to what the new fangled personal computers could do. He sent me a big paperback book called, "You Just Bought a Personal WHAT?" The cartoon on the cover shows a curious cat peering into the open carton marked, "COMPUTER."
I was hooked - addicted. Everything about that new toy was exciting. Son Dave recommended that I look at an Apple computer, and, of course, I took his advice. That first Macintosh (Apple) opened up a whole new world. I have gone through several computers, each more powerful and convenient than the last.
There was a brief shining moment there when I was almost an expert. That moment has never been repeated.
Each time I figured out how to do something new and thought I was pretty smart, the whole computer industry exploded with more new stuff that I didn't understand. The machine is obsolete before you unpack it.
We are living in the computer age. World wide communication has revolutionized business and industry.
Now we have the Internet for personal communication. And we have the World Wide Web, possibly the most profound change in the intellectual landscape in centuries. Suddenly we have at our fingertips more knowledge than we will ever want.
Michael Green in his book Zen and the art of the Macintosh, writes, "A computer can interact so delicately and precisely with the intellect that it really does become an integral part of the cognitive process. It communicates for you, to you and with you."
I'll bet old Will Shakespeare would have loved it.
My dad came into the 19th century on horseback. I'm in the 21st with a computer under my arm. We've both had a great ride.