Thursday, October 13, 2011

You have died of dysentery

As a middle-schooler, I was haunted by a video on general computer use that they once showed us. This was the 90's, so PC's weren't as ubiquitous as they now are; Campbell's Soup labels still bought Macs for schools, on which we played Oregon Trail and Fraction Munchers.

Of course, it wasn't schoolwork to play Oregon Trail, but rather a reward after you'd completed your computer lab work. Those days are when I learned things like Cut and Paste, and Alignment  (of type that is; D&D alignments weren't until college).  Oregon Trail was the super cool, almost illicit thing to do; you could shoot animals in it! You had to buy things on a budget (I think "Schoolteacher" got the smallest amount of money?). At the end, it was all of a sudden an action game as you steered your covered wagon down a rushing river, avoiding rocks. All hinging on the notion that your entire party didn't die horribly in transit, that is.  Of things like dysentery, and Typhoid.

But one day, in computer lab, they showed the video. It was of students, middle school or high school aged, taking a computer class. They talked about word processing, and about how you had to Save on your Disk or else all the work you had done would be lost forever! If you pressed the wrong button, it would all be gone! Now I know that isn't true.  Conrol + Z probably existed back then, but these guys weren't taking any chances! Holy crap, it could all be gone forever!

The teacher did nothing to allay this worry.

We frequently had PCs at home, though not necessarily up to date. They ran DOS or Windows 3.1 and didn't necessarily have word processing on them, so I didn't translate my lessons at school to the home machines. I played DOS Jeopardy and Hangman and Monopoly on them, and later ran that really cool Excel Flight Simulator, after the local paper enlightened us with regards to that Easter Egg, but I didn't do schoolwork on computers until Junior and Senior year of high school, and even then, only for the end of the year Research Paper that most of English class was devoted to.

So, my first stories were in fact typed on an electric IBM typewriter. The typewriter noise is really much more satisfying than a computer keyboard. "Membrane keyboard", I guess I should call it, as I just read this article on PC World about mechanical keyboards and really want one, though am mystified by the price tag. Shouldn't less technology equal a lower price? But I digress. You couldn't hit the wrong button and lose everything on a typewriter! Oh, how superior I felt. The problem with a typewriter? To fix something, you had to type it all over again. All. Of. It. This was also prior to my high school Keyboarding classes, so my current 60ish words a minute (give or take) did not exist.

I do not have the industry required to type the same story, over and over again. Especially if it happens to be one's first fantasy novel; everybody knows fantasy novels are supposed to be very very long (George R. R. Martin, I'm looking at you!). Also, when I went to college, as part of the cost, freshmen got laptops, so the world of word processing and also the Internet opened up to me. What a revelation! I still save early, though, and save often. Even in Google Documents, which saves automatically.

I still prefer the smell of typewriter ink to a freshly ink-jetted page, though.

No comments:

Post a Comment