Here’s another flashback to my days as a opinion columnist for the campus paper. This one is dated February 1990. It’s on my gradual transformation into a computer geek.
I’ve finally, grudgingly, joined the Information Age. Or is this the Space Age? Or the Nuclear Age? The Age of Reason? Or . . .
Whatever age it is when you buy a personal computer, that’s the age I’ve joined. Maybe the Computer Age?
This is rather ironic because only a few years back I was very anti-computers. Adamantly anti-computers. They were the realm of computer geeks, those same nerds we laughed at in high school for carrying slide-rules and orgasming over quadratic equations.
My first run-in with computers came in an English class here at UWM. We were informed we would be required to learn to use the word-processing computers in the English Department’s computer lab. Needless to say, I was quite vocal about my views on what they could do with their computers.
My complaint (most likely intimidation of the new technology) was that word-processing was equivalent to food-processing. You cram a dictionary in, grind it up and voila! Any moron could become a writer. (Some people are probably nodding, thinking I prove that point. Well, all I have to say to them is la de da.) If I still held this view the new grammar and style checkers they have out now would really make me paranoid, but I now realize they, too, are just tools to aid the writer. They cannot transform any shmuck off the street into a Hemingway unless they have the innate talent for it, just as modern carpentry tools can’t turn me into a Homer Formby since I am still a klutz with my hands.
Well, I took the course, used the computers, and still came away grousing about “those electronic demons bent on ruling the world,” vowing never to associate with one.
I came to this newspaper back in ’86 and all they had at the time was a broken down electric typewriter. As the paper grew, it acquired a computer, a Leading Edge Model D. I viewed it with some disdain, but since I was copy editor at the time, I had to learn how to use it. Somewhere along the way, that insidious little beast got under my skin and I fell in love with it.
As the TIMES grew, its inventory of computers grew, and my love and interest in them grew as well. As production manager, they were indispensable to me as a creative tool.
Somehow during this period, my writing process changed also. I used to write my rough drafts in long hand, then type it. I’d proof it, make changes, type it again, proof it again, make more changes, and type it once more. More often than not I’d even make changes to the changes while I typed.
Computers have freed me from all that endless typing. The story is saved on a disk, and I can either proof it on-screen or from printed hard copy. Changes are just a matter of deleting or adding words, lines and even whole paragraphs.
Short stories that would have taken me weeks of wearisome typing and retyping, not to mention reams of paper, now take only a few days and a few sheets.
And the novels I’m working on would still be just a germ of an idea because the work involved in transforming those ideas to paper was just too much effort and anguish.
When I was young, writing was fun. I was a god creating worlds and peopling those worlds with fascinating characters. I soon discovered however, that I was a god with feet of clay. The amount of work involved in being a productive writer was just too much and all I could do was dream.
Computers have given me the freedom to pursue my dreams once again, and now, with a computer at home, I have the power to re-attain my former divinity.
Besides, think of all the quarters I’ll save on video games.
Upon Reflection is a column of personal opinion and is now written on a bouncing baby HeadStart III.