Skip to main content

The Reluctant Evolution of a Computer Geek

The Reluctant Evolution of a Computer Geek

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

I've been amazed at how far computers have come from the first days I used one.

I was 13 years old, when my dad paid nearly $3,000 for a Radio Shack TRS-80 home computer.

"It'll be great," he said. "I'll be able to type my articles on here, and won't have to retype them if I find any mistakes."

My dad was (and still is) a psychology professor at Ball State University, trying to earn tenure at the time. The way to do that was to publish one research article in an academic journal every year.

I realize this is not stretching far back into computer history, and that some of you are old enough to still remember painting on cave walls as an early form of Instant Messaging. Still, I was around for the early stages of the personal home computer.

Back in the late '70s and early '80s, writing a journal-quality article involved a lot of typing and retyping. It was not something you took lightly, since it took several minutes of high-stress worry to type a single page.

You hoped you caught errors before you hit the carriage return to move down to the next line. You corrected errors with White-Out, or if you were really fancy, correction tape.

When you were finished, if you found a mistake on a page, you swore loudly and stomped and slammed around the house for several minutes, before retyping the offending page, praying desperately that the new correction didn't push a line off the page, which would force you to retype the rest of the document.

That's why many people would hire typists, who had mastered the beastly machines and charged $1.00 – $1.50 per typed page (worth roughly $3.30 – $5 today). The real money lay in typing some poor schlub's master's thesis that clocked in around 150 pages or so.

When my dad brought home his computer, you'd have thought we were the first family on the block to get television.

My friends thought it was stupid. "Who the hell needs a computer?" they snorted, clutching their stone knives. My dad's colleagues were suspicious and dismissive, but, I think, secretly jealous.

(No college professor will ever admit when he has been outdone by another professor. The professional jealousy and backstabbing on a college campus makes the Bolshevik Revolution look like a fancy tea party.)

As predicted, my dad was able to improve his output in writing his articles, and was granted tenure. His colleagues were suitably impressed, but like most college professors, didn't embrace change and stayed firmly rooted in the 1930s, until the department bought computers for them a few years later. I, on the other hand, used it for more important pursuits.

I played games.

I also learned some programming skills, using BASIC, the language of the TRS-80. And since I was inclined to, well, cheat at the games, I needed to know how to reprogram some of the variables to insure I didn't die prematurely (or at all).

Viruses were nonexistent, and very few people could ever go online. Not like now, where our entire lives are lived online, and it's a rare computer that doesn't have some sort of virus on it.

Luckily for me, I didn't pursue computer programming as a career, choosing instead to have a social life and to date women. However, I now own a company that does online marketing for businesses and corporations. So I never really strayed from my early computer roots.

I'm often amazed at how far computers have come in just a few short years. In the 1960s, a company computer was a mainframe system made up of a gigantic bank of computers, each bigger than a refrigerator. The processing power and storage capacity of those machines are thousands of times less than your average cell phone, but they cost millions of dollars.

Yet, as I write this, I'm looking at a 1 GB (gigabyte) flash drive that is smaller than my thumb; 1 GB is equal to about 21,000 pages of text. And my laptop is connected to a 1 TB (terabyte) hard drive, about the size of a paperback book, which can hold 1,000 of these little flash drives, or 21 million pages.

I think we're going to see some amazing things over the next 10 years, let alone the next 30. And maybe one day, my kids will be writing about how their dad used to carry this crazy, old-fashioned gizmo called a "laptop," and they'll laugh about how old all that technology is, and how goofy I was for using it.

I hope they get a virus.

Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.


Popular posts from this blog

AYFKMWTS?! FBI Creates 88 Page Twitter Slang Guide


Did you get that? It's an acronym. Web slang. It's how all the teens and young people are texting with their tweeters and Facer-books on their cellular doodads.

It stands for "The FBI has created an eighty-eight page Twitter slang dictionary."

See, you would have known that if you had the FBI's 88 page Twitter slang dictionary.

Eighty-eight pages! Of slang! AYFKMWTS?! (Are you f***ing kidding me with this s***?! That's actually how they spell it in the guide, asterisks and everything. You know, in case the gun-toting agents who catch mobsters and international terrorists get offended by salty language.)

I didn't even know there were 88 Twitter acronyms, let alone enough acronyms to fill 88 pieces of paper.

The FBI needs to be good at Twitter because they're reading everyone's tweets to see if anyone is planning any illegal activities. Because that's what terrorists do — plan their terroristic activities publicly, as if they were…

Understanding 7 Different Types of Humor

One of my pet peeves is when people say they have a "dry" sense of humor, without actually understanding what it actually means.

"Dry" humor is not just any old type of humor. It's not violent, not off-color, not macabre or dark.

Basically, dry humor is that deadpan style of humor. It's the not-very-funny joke your uncle the cost analysis accountant tells. It's Bob Newhart, Steven Wright, or Jason Bateman in Arrested Development.

It is not, for the love of GOD, people, the Black Knight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I swear, if anyone says Monty Python is "dry humor" is going to get a smack.

Here are some other types of comedy you may have heard and are just tossing around, willy-nilly.

Farce: Exaggerated comedy. Characters in a farce get themselves in an unlikely or improbable situation that takes a lot of footwork and fast talking to get out of. The play "The Foreigner" is an example of a farce, as are many of the Jeeves &…

What Are They Thinking? The Beloit College Mindset List

Every year at this time, the staff at Beloit College send out their new student Mindset List as a way to make everyone clutch their chest and feel the cold hand of death.

This list was originally created and shared with their faculty each year, so the faculty would understand what some of their own cultural touchstones might mean, or not mean, to the incoming freshmen. They also wanted the freshmen to know it was not cool to refer to '80s music as "Oldies."

This year's incoming Beloit freshmen are typically 18 years old, born in 1999. John F. Kennedy Jr. died that year, as did Stanley Kubrick and Gene Siskel. And so did my hope for a society that sought artistic and intellectual pursuits for the betterment of all humanity. Although it may have actually died when I heard about this year's Emoji Movie.

Before I throw my hands up in despair, here are a few items from the Mindset list for the class of 2021.

They're the last class to be born in the 1900s, and are t…