Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Remembering what it was like before computers were invented

The Computer World is a place that is almost entirely foreign to me.
I can do a few of the basic things, for example, typing on a screen, which is what I am doing right now.
But that is the extent of my expertise. I can’t do much else, and that is a shame, because I cannot share in the joys of social media. It is all over my head.
Everything to do with electronics is over my head. It is not because of my IQ. I am quite satisfied with that. At least, I was happy with it at Fort Hood, Texas, because they told me at G-1 I was the smartest guy in the Army.
Or maybe it was in the barracks. I forget which.
Nevertheless, nothing goes right for me when I sit down at the computer. I am glad I am not a concert pianist. The wrong stuff would keep coming out.
If I tried to play a little Chopin, I would probably get something by Billy Strayhorn. And that’s not a bad idea, come to think of it. I can take a few bars of “Take the A Train” any time.
I have the use of a computer both places where I work, at Lakeland Community College and at The News-Herald. I am always having to ask people how to do things.
At the college, I ask the ladies who sit in the area outside my office for help. They are very nice ladies, but please, don’t ever call them “girls.” That is, in a word, offensive. Funny thing, they look like girls to me. But they are very patient with me. They explain things which I retain for a short time, but then it’s right back to the same old problems again.
It would be best if I would take notes, but real men don’t take notes. That is what I tell the lady of the house, but she believes I should relent a little bit in these matters, like in stores where I refuse to ask anyone where things are.
She is a great believer in asking for directions. My belief is, “I can find it myself.”
Oddly enough, when we are in a store looking for something, she always seems to find what we are looking for first.
She claims it is because she asks for directions and I don’t. I say it is just luck. Be that as it may, things work out for the best.
At the paper, I ask John Bertosa, the managing editor, for help. He not only understands the system, he is also within shouting distance, so when I holler, “Hey John, I need help,” he is one of the people who can hear me.
That is because newsrooms are so quiet nowadays. Carpeted and all that.
In the old days, the floors were wooden, reporters were hammering loudly on typewriters and a dozen or so teletype machines were bringing in news from all over the world.
They clacked away at a monotonous 88 words a minute, and when they were all clacking at the same time, it managed to drive a few people crazy.
I could name some of them, but their families might still be in the area, and would probably claim it was something other than the clacking that drove their loved ones nuts.
I have my own computer at home. It is a Dell. It never works right. I insist that my computer adviser/guru, Greg Patt, told me to buy it. He is equally as insistent that he told me to buy an Apple. I called him a couple months ago to come over and pick up my computer. Greg knows everything there is to know about computers.
I am glad he took it. It made room at the dinner table for one more person in case we had company.
He brought it back the other day. He said it was fixed. Hah! It may have been fixed when it was at his house, but now that it is home, it does not work so well any more.
He said he “cleaned it up.” I don’t recall getting it dirty. It is as slow, in the words of Grandma Sherman, as molasses in January.
Some of that may be Time Warner’s fault. Those folks brag about their speed. I did a little research on that matter, and found out they have five different speeds. The more you pay, the faster it gets.
I have the cheapest speed. They are not getting any more money out of me to speed up my computer. It’s just a shame they can’t increase the speed without jacking up the price.
Greg had a parting shot as he left. It is something he has told me many times in the past: Hang on to your computer only to copy CDs (which gives me an opportunity to share some straight ahead jazz with my friends) and get an ipad for emails and looking up stuff on Google, like college football scores.
Swell. Now I’ve got to learn to use another gadget.
Look, I do not have Facebook and I do not have Twitter and I do not do social networking on the computer.
Despite a hundred thousand people asking me to be their friend on the internet, I have never responded to any of them.
At heart I am a very friendly kind of a guy, but I do not believe in electronic friendship.
I respond to emails. Period. I understand that neither Thomas Edison nor Alexander Graham Bell ever owned a computer.
I respect their privacy – and their decisions to be left alone.


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