Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Victim of my Devices

The other day, I sat pecking on my laptop as my tablet streamed live TV.  My cell phone rang and as I answered it, I glanced over my stuff and felt all 21st century and a bit overwhelmed.

As one of those antiques who remembers 3 television stations, party lines, and shut downs at midnight, my travel through technology has been an adventure.

It was handy to be a teacher when computers invaded society. During my second year, I was housed, temporarily, in the new COMPUTER ROOM of the remodeled high school. It was an oversized classroom with floor-to-ceiling windows, many electrical outlets and lots of small, red, blinking lights. I believe we were expecting to automate the reading of ‘key punch’ cards that we filed manually at that time. At any rate, the school folks expected huge machines, walls of them, to bring the school up to date.

Those machines never appeared; the lights remained and my students liked the décor.

About 10 years later, I sat at my first word-processor, typed something on a keyboard that appeared on a screen. THEN, as directed, I hit the PRINT SCREEN button, heard a CLICK hooozze, and turned to the right as my typing started to print out on a separate device. I believe I sat transfixed until the document was complete. Amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing.

At that time, the school purchased whole rooms of word processing machines and started requiring all students to learn them. And then, that requirement became an amusement as students started owning their own devices at home.

As for me, I recovered from the thrill of the over-there printer but continued to learn and then purchased my own computer for our home. It sat on a large desk in the corner of our bedroom, tethered to a phone hook-up (‘land line’). I needed a crib sheet of basic DOS commands to make the computer work. I asked, looking for an answer I could understand, what DOS was. Yeah, Disk Operating System. But what IS that? Never got a satisfactory answer but I could follow my notes   C:/bitmax/run    (something like that)

My father-in-law, who was always in front of technology, could sit at my computer, punch in a few commands (didn’t need notes!) and the screen would fill with scrolling coded phrases of the contents of my computer. Whew!

Into the 90s and the Office Stuff: schools wanted kids to learn OFFICE. Logic: they will be able to get jobs. So, although I was not expected to train anyone, I WAS expected to be at least marginally familiar with WORD, EXCEL, and POWERPOINT. A bright someone created step-by-step instructions for use during training that could teach a 4th grader. Some began with:

“Sit down, adjust seat for comfort, locate power button and turn on computer.” And then pictures of what screens should look like at various stages of the program.

Although I could and still can maneuver through Office, as I use WORD regularly, that is my go-to program. I spent 10 years writing a weekly newspaper column using Microsoft Works and could navigate without checking the booklet. Then WORD replaced WORKS and I had to renew my education for a while.

Later, as I would supervise my students as they composed in writing labs, I saw them using different keys and commands to accomplish what I would do. I asked someone to show me a few….that right click on the mouse can get some things done faster than taking my arrow up to the banner at the top and dropping down…too technical for you?...and kids are all about fast. I find, that for now, I like the way I use the program.

Side note and one I’ve shared with my teenage students, this after asking, “Has anyone ever tried to teach Gramma how to use her computer?”  This always creates heavy sighs, nods, pained laughter from the kids. I tell them, then, that they have nibbled at the wafer of patience (English teacher, all about metaphors), and that the way to curb their frustrations is to remember to teach her ONE way to do something. Not three. Not the fun, fast way. Not the cool way. The SIMPLEST, the MOST VISUAL, and JUST ONE.

As a Gramma/student, when the teacher begins with, “You can do it this way, and that way and then…” I feel my eyelids curl. So, one way, ok?

Several times in the last 15 years, I have announced that I am DONE with Upgrades. I’ll just muddle through the rest of my life with my vintage computer with the floppy disk drive.

What? They don’t use them anymore? Flashdrive? Cloud? Huh?

At our house, we cleaved to our landline and figured we would not ‘do’ cell. I mean, why? And then we found out why. Mike could drive to Wabash while dictating AND communicating with the office. How many times had he driven 50 miles to Indianapolis, parked and entered the courthouse, only to find out that the case had been canceled, rescheduled, something? Now his assistants could alert him and he could save time and money and get on with the next case.

Me? I found the cell phone a convenience but never carried it with me. My kids would say, “Mom, I called you. Where is your cell phone?”

“In the car.”

Long, sighing pauses.

Eventually, that little, bright blue flip phone found its way into my purse but it was still an afterthought. Upgrade? Nah. Why?

Then, at one of Mike’s birthday parties, my pastor led me astray: I announced that I was going no farther with cell phones. He dipped his head (tall guy), smiled slyly, and said, “I think you will. Check this out.”

At which he fired up his phone, touched a few buttons, and up came a live link up with a most adorable grandson. His eyes were on his phone. “How you doin’, buddy?”

“Hi Gandar.”

“Gotta go. See you soon. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Then, he turned his smile at me and said, “Huh?”

So, with grandsons 1100 miles away, my tempter swayed me to a smart phone and now it’s invaluable.

I think some of us, the 3 channel folks, struggle with trying to UNDERSTAND how it all works. As that is beyond most of us, we use but we are wary. Then, we keep hearing all warnings about how others can get to our stuff and all.

My stuff is pretty boring but I don’t want strangers into it. I’m betting that if ‘someone’ ventured ‘in’ he would quickly see that there’s nothing ‘there.’

I HAVE had a few interesting adventures while strolling through the internet. Once, when a student asked me how to find a graphic for his poem about Little Red Riding Hood, I sat down among my students and typed LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD into the search line. (This was JUST before I learned about Google Image.) When I hit ENTER, I observed my screen filing with pornographic images, in strips of pictures. I tried to stop it….hitting random keys…as my crowd of freshmen gathered and giggled.

When the computer was done belching the images, I called to computer people to report this as we had been warned that anything we viewed on school computers was public property and could be linked to us. The computer guy laughed also and then told me about Google Image. Day saved.

I’ve also endured e-mails that contain ‘tone,’ amazed at how words on a screen can convey emotion. One time, I opened a message from a parent. It was in ALL CAPS and BOLD RED. She was unhappy with me. I remember leaning away from the screen like I had been punched.

Email, by its nature, is abrupt and to-the-point. When the reader has context, it doesn’t matter but many writers don’t establish that context. Personally, after the RED CAP caper, I started always beginning emails with a salutation.  Hi.  Dear…  Something. It softens the blow if a blow is, in fact, to be delivered. Also, on those occasions, rare now, that might ramp up the emotion, I always save and think before I send. Sometimes, a cooler head should run the SEND button.

My newest device is a SURFACE, a tablet which I bought as a lighter writing device. It’s pretty neat and does travel well. But it’s a curiosity to me. The salesman demonstrated all sorts of touch, move, enlarge, swipe things that I don’t use and don’t understand. But sometimes, I touch something and then what I’m working on goes somewhere. I’m learning how to find my stuff but I end up swiping through all sorts of things I don’t use.

There are some lovely perks that I, again, don’t understand. If I close the tablet onto the Velcro-snapped keyboard, it shuts down. Usually. But yesterday, I discovered something new.

I had searched for “All the Poor and Powerful” on YouTube. Up came the most delightful video of All the Sons and Daughters AND several small children performing this wonderful, worshipful song. I believe…but am not sure…that the site is WorshipMob. Or WorshipMob Channel. Or WorshipMob something.

Anyway, I sat through the 5 minute video, enchanted. So I fired it up again. About half way through the second time, I had to move on, so I closed the tablet. The song continued. On to the finish, 3 minutes later. Huh. THAT has never happened before. My Surface salesman might offer an explanation…he’s my go-to guy… but I chalked it up to a blessing. This is better for me on many levels. I wouldn’t understand what I ‘did’ to keep the music going.

Then, this morning, as I ventured into the internet to research something important but tedious, the site reactivated and played the song again. Ok THAT’s a major blessing.

I can abide victimization of devices and the muddle of my understanding: I don’t want to know ‘how’ it happens. I will smile and feel hugged, once again.



1 comment:

  1. I want to get one of those devices you mentioned at the very last that you traveled with. I'm quite sure you used it at my house. Finances don't allow me to upgrade at the moment and I thought my laptop was dying. I decided to try to replace the keyboard. So I went to YouTube, found an instructional video and watched the entire thing and put a short cut on my desk top in case I needed to review it again. Then I went to Amazon and hunted down the correct keyboard. I'm a prime member (well worth it to someone who lives in Alaska where shipping costs are always a factor) and ordered one.

    The end of this little story happened today. The keyboard came a couple of days ago. I hiked it up the hill to the house I'm staying at dog sitting until the 3rd. Looked at it sitting there for a couple more days and decided to just tackle it today. I'm very unhandy, I cannot stand repairing anything for a lot of reasons, lack of skill, lack of willingness to read the directions, etc. The video showed the young man using a plastic card to work the keyboard loose, I didn't have a suitable one, either they were too thick or too thin. Finally, I dug out some nail clippers and used the file attachment with the curve on the end. Carefully I began to pry it loose. I didn't want to further harm this keyboard in case the one I got didn't work or didn't fit. At last it came loose and I even remember the proper procedure for unplugging it.

    I carefully plugged in the new keyboard and little by little snapped it into place. After some scanning and other computer stuff (most of the websites I visit said they didn't have current certificates) that's why I did the scan in case there was malware on this keyboard. I said all of that to say, this computer is like new! All for the price of a small amount of research, careful shopping on Amazon and for fifteen bucks and change, I have a like new computer! Yay. So, I have my iPhone, which I loved until my next guest Edie showed up with a Samsung Galaxy. The screen is so much bigger! I have this computer and for now, I'm set. I'm happy. Thanks for sharing your information age adventures. I'm so proud of myself for fixing this computer! xo Gwen