Friday, October 11, 2013


In the file drawer next to my computer sits a folder marked "Computer."  The earliest material in it dates from about 1997, when I first became brave enough to go on the internet.  I chose AOL as my service provider and a dial-up modem, which if you can remember back that far tied up your telephone until you logged off the internet.

Actually, I took a job through a temp agency in 1981 with Burroughs Corporation, and it was there that I learned to work a stand-alone word processor, a Burroughs device called a Redactron.  At the time this machine mainly was purchased by law firms and was especially of value because it could save hours and hours of repeat typing of legal documents with blanks filled in with differing clients.  Being an electronic thing, it was subject to all the glitches that we still meet every day all these many years later.  I recall one phone call from an irate attorney in downtown San Francisco demanding that we get a repair man to his office posthaste or the $11,000 piece of equipment was going to be thrown out the window of his 11th floor office.

It was at Burroughs in 1981 that I heard of the development of the PC (personal computer), and sure enough, as you know it came alone in due time.  In the intervening years I learned to work most of the Word Processing systems like Wang, use most of the word processing programs like Wordstar and Word Perfect, the electronic typewriters like the Xerox Memory Writer- and finally Jer and I invested in a Tandy 1000, from RadioShack.

Then I became the inheritor of an old IBM computer that my son replaced....and that's when the fun really began.  Nevertheless, throughout all these devices and all these programs, there are a few things that have remained constant, the biggest and most consistent of which is FRUSTRATION!

Back in 1998 the magazine Salon devised a Computer Haiku contest, asking entrants to use the Haiku form to express their ideas of just what all this new-fangled way of communication was about (that's my interpretation, not theirs!)  What is interesting is that now, almost 15 years later, these Haiku "poems" are as true as the day they were printed.  With thanks to Salon, let me share a few with you:

Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.

With searching comes loss
And the presence of absence:
"My novel" not found.

Stay the patient course.
Of little worth is your ire.
The network is down.

A crash reduces
Your expensive computer
To a simple stone.

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

Having been erased,
The document you're seeking
Must now be retyped.

You step in the stream,
But the water has moved on.
The page is not here.

and my favorite...

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent and reboot
Order shall return.

I understand, at a gut level, the feelings expressed in each of these poems.  As recently as yesterday a light bulb in my mind went on as I tried to figure out what else I could do to get my computer (whose name, by the way, is TIMEWASTER) to perform normally.  Ah, I said.  Perhaps if I totally close down old TIMEWASTER my problem will disappear.

I did, and it did.

Through the years I have been given lots of good advice.  The two most important ideas have remained constant: "Reboot" and "Don't ask why!"

Now back to my file cabinet.  Except for a few pages of instruction for devices and programs I no longer have, the material in that file is still helpful and pertinent.  I dare not get rid of any of it.  Had the computer age lived up to its promise -- A Paperless Office -- I could have left all of the material on the computer.  But as much as I love old TIMEWASTER, I am not going to take that much of a chance!

1 comment:

Olga said...

Poets always speak the truth.