April 9, 2010

You know, blogs are amazing things…

Up until about 2 years ago, there was no such word as a blog. Now, there are thousands, if not millions of the little devils spreading like wildfire, all over the internet. Everything from my type of blog – personal writings and opinions, to blogs for classes in school, business, and government.

It kind of makes you wonder what the world was like without all this information.

I remember years ago, in school, taking business courses in high school. I had decided, on a whim, and because my parents had bought me a typewriter for Christmas, to take a typing course. Unbeknownst to them, and A LOT of my friends, I had decided to take a typing course in high school. Oh, I’m sure after the first report card went home, they found out. At that time, way back, again, when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, I was the ONLY guy in my class! I sat at the back of the class so no one could see me. I should also mention, that I took a shorthand course as well!

Nonetheless, I soon became the best damn typist in the class. For those that are too young, typing courses back then involved the use of a typewriter (see definition below). Most of my present-day students don’t understand what I’m talking about. A few have seen one in the museum, but have never used one!

type·writ·er   [tahyp-rahy-ter] –noun
1. a machine for writing mechanically in letters and characters like those produced by printers’ types.
2. Printing. a type style that gives the appearance of typewritten copy.
3. Older Use. a typist.

This archaic piece of office equipment was the standard for computers. The present-day ‘QWERTY’ keyboard is based on the design of the typewriter. The ones we used in school, were the ‘old-fashioned’ type, where you hit the key, and an arm would strike the paper, through the ribbon, and imprint the letter on the paper. If you didn’t hit hard enough, the letter was not legible. Sometimes, if you hit two keys at the same time, the arms would get tangled up, and you had to reach inside and pry them apart.

Then, once I started working with the federal government, I had a ‘Selectric’ typewriter. This was the ‘electronic’ version of the typewriter. There were two different types, but I was fortunate to have the ‘better’ of the two. It consisted of a ‘globe’ of sorts, with all the characters you needed to type. The only problem was, that since I was such a quick typist, I could type faster than the ‘globe’ could imprint the letters on the paper. Nonetheless, it was a heck of a lot better than the manual typewriters. I vaguely remember that Medway High School had, probably, the original typewriters that were invented!

Finally, along came the computer age. The first office I worked in was Museums Canada. We had eight terminals in our inner office, where eight employees sat all day entering information about the various artifacts contained in the national museums across Canada. We were all hooked up together to a computer that was the size of my house! Half the 11th floor was devoted to the one computer that our eight terminals were hooked up to. When I think back to these early days of computers, it’s hard to believe the equipment we use now!

After that, computers started getting smaller. There was the Micom 2000. Then the Micom 2001. The Micom 3001! I actually had these computer systems installed in my home, so I could do word processing for people ‘on the side’. I made very good money at this as well. It was a lot of work in my ‘free time’, but it was great work!

Then, along came the first ‘personal’ computers. I remember working in Agriculture Canada, Minister’s Office, on the Experimental Farm in Canada. What a joy it was to finally have a computer that would work, and was only for ME to use. I began eagerly figuring out ways to use this in my everyday life. Next, came the Commodore 54! This would end up being the first personal computer that I remember having in my home.

While having this smaller piece of computer technology, I also had a BBS. Seven friends, including myself, had started a magazine. People from across North America would upload their writings to my BBS, I would download them to my Commodore 54, format the text, print it out, and cut and paste these writings into sheets ready for the printer. What a process, but it was fun! The problem with BBS systems, was that, because it used telephone lines, unless you had a dedicated line just for the BBS, someone calling during the transmission, would cut the transmission off!

Then the internet evolved. Then laptops. Then cellphones with computer capabilities.

When I first came to Taiwan, I was vehement in the fact that I would not get a cellphone. I only knew the type of cellphone that I had had the chance to use in Ottawa. It was about 30cm long, 15×15 cm square, had a big antenna, and sounded like crap when you tried to talk to anyone. You had to yell into it, even when you were outdoors!

I now have an iPhone. It is small, compact, fits in my pocket, and has: email retrieval, compass, mapping and location services, internet access, dedicated apps for YouTube and iTunes, iPod, and various other games and utilities that would take a while to go through and explain.

I’ve gone from the Micom 2001, which was a mammoth of a machine that ONLY did word processing, to a laptop that has the memory space of 100 of the Micom 2001s!

I am glad that I grew up during the infancy of the computer and technological age. I got to see what the forerunners looked like, and got to use them. I got to see the evolution of the cellphone. Hell, I even got the chance to see the evolution of the television! When I was young, we had an old black and white television with ‘rabbit ears’, that you had to get up off your butt, and manually turn the channels. Now, I have a 42″, LCD flat screen television, with HI Def capabilities. I can even hook up my computer to the thing, and have a 42″ monitor!

For my parents, I kind of wonder what they must be thinking. I’ve seen first-hand my parents evolving into the technological age. I remember them getting their first VCR and I having to help them to program it so they could tape their favourite shows. Then, their first computer. I set up a ‘bat’ file, so that when they turned on the computer, with a push of a button, they could access any program they used, without going through DOS. Now, they frequent the internet, write their own blogs, and mom has even used it to print and help publish a book.

What amazes me the most though, are people who still don’t know how to turn the computer on!


1 Comment

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One response to “April 9, 2010

  1. Bilbet

    I guess you’ve forgotten about the steam driven computer, the one powered by a car battery and the one you needed a disc to start the computer, eh?

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