There was meaningful life before commuters invaded our world. We used to have conversations. We used to meet for lunch. We used to check the mailbox for letters and cards.
Then computers came along, filled entire rooms. NORAD used the first computer of which I became aware. It did its job of with the use of several thousand electron tubes, so I heard. But details were less than sketchy. They were rumors. And no one could point a finger at the source of these rumors.
A lady working in the University of Oregon Data Processing Center spoke at one of our Commodore 64 meetings. Apparently, she was at the leading edge of the computing world. She explained how the computer itself was housed in a 27-foot trailer. Another trailer, a twin to the first one, contained the cooling unit. This computer had only a keyboard. It offered 3-kilobytes of RAM.
Of course you don’t need me to tell you where things went from there.
How would I manage without a computer? I would function more slowly, but at the end of the day it’s quite possible I would have accomplished as much. Thinking about going back to a manual typewriter is a sobering thought. Cut and paste would involve a razor blade and tape rather than a key stroke or two. So it would be important that I had some notion what I wanted to say before we began. I would have to once again be a writer rather than a typists.
Then there’s online shopping. When I was a kid we lived in a rural setting. Of course we had the general store where we could buy a pair of shoes, a cap, or underwear. But anything beyond our basic needs required a daylong trip to Kansas City or thumbing through the Montgomery-Ward catalog and then sending our order to Chicago by way of Teed, our rural mail carrier.
In some ways we’ve gone backwards. Mail used to be delivered twice daily in town. A nickel stamp would guarantee a letter mailed in Kansas City would reach a New York City destination the following morning. A few years ago I sent a check from Portland, Oregon to Fort Wayne, Indiana. It arrived there the next day as promised but the cost was $14 and some change.
I keep a daily journal written in cursive with a yellow pencil. I seldom refer back to what I’ve written, but sometimes it’s nice to know when something or other happened. And when I do I don’t have to worry that the hard drive crashed and took my thoughts with it. I could function without a computer.
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