Sunday, 6 June 2010
Getting into computers.
Sitting here with my trusty little laptop on my knee, I’ve been thinking about my journey with computers and how we’ve both evolved.
My first experience came when I was doing Archaeology at university and having to use a Social Statistics package to analyse sites. That involved long hours feeding cards into a machine, which punched holes in just the right places – that is, if I told it the right places. Then I’d leave the pack of cards in a hole in the wall and the faceless people in the computer lab would feed them to the computers, monstrosities the size of large refrigerators (yes, I’m that old). If I was lucky, I’d go back the next day and find a stack of perforated paper with all the answers. More often than not, there’d be a sheet with ‘error’ somewhere near the top. Then it was back to the punch machine to find where I’d made the mistake.
When I first started teaching, personal computers were the new thing. Each classroom had one, which was generally used as a treat for the kids who did good work or behaved themselves. I was one of the few teachers, I think, who actually learned to turn it on and off. Usually, that was left to the kids themselves. They weren’t scared of it. I can’t say I ever bothered to try to learn much more though.
At home, we got our first PC when Eldest was about six years old. We thought it was wonderful having a whole 256 megabytes of RAM. I was adept at getting a perfect blue screen, but eventually worked out how not to get it. I thought I was doing pretty well until Eldest brought home a piece of work he’d had to do at school. He’d been asked to give three examples of ways in which the people around him had taught him various emotions and values. He wrote something along the lines of – “My dad isn’t scared of snakes or spiders or anything, so he’s taught me about being brave. My Grandma is nice to everyone and always helps people, so she has taught me about being kind. My mum lets me watch her when she is on the computer, so now I know all about being frustrated.”
Actually, Eldest has always been a leveller when it comes to the computer. Whenever I’ve thought I was getting good at something, he’d show me how much I didn’t know. Very early on, I downloaded him a programme called ‘Gamemaker’. It allows you to make up 2D games just by clicking on the right buttons. I spent the afternoon working out how to make a box in which a ball bounced around without disappearing off the screen. I felt very proud of myself. Then Eldest came home. Within two hours, he had made a game of Pacman, complete with ghosts and secret passageways and 3 levels. He was seven years old! By ten he was ignoring the buttons provided and writing his own scripts. I never bothered to try again.
Dynamo, on the other hand, has never had much time for computers and hated that PC. In fact, before he could even really talk, I knew exactly what he thought of it. I’d turn it on and he’d stomp up to me and say ‘No! Da –Daaaaaaa!’ – a perfect rendition of the sound the computer makes when it’s shutting down.
That PC though, was the reason I took up writing. I’ve always made up stories, but I’m basically a lazy person. The thought of writing long hand a whole novel or even a short story was just too much for me. Then to have to rewrite it all over again…too hard. Far easier to draw a picture and show my thoughts and feelings that way. But those stories still churned around in my head. Then we got the PC. Now I could type the story, delete bits, add bits, completely rearrange bits. It was heaven. I haven’t looked back since. Stories still fight to get out, but now at least they have a chance of getting onto paper.
I’m still no expert, but at least I’m not scared of the thing anymore. I can download tunes onto my iPod and I have a website, I can replace ink in the printer and upload photos to Facebook. I did the picture at the top of this post on the computer. I have friends of my age who just refuse to even look at a computer and I have to say I don’t understand them. It has opened up so much and allowed me to do so much, I can’t see what they’re afraid of. I enjoy my little laptop. I’d be lost without it. So would all my stories.