Published Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tech Savvy

Our first home computer was a mammoth in comparison to the little devices we have today.

It had a huge “terminal”, that thing shaped like an old TV with a big pointy back that held all its brains. There was no color on the screen and everything was written in DOS, which was the prehistoric language for computers. Sadly, DOS made great sense to me. I even took a class so I could write my own programs. But by the time I was finished with the class, DOS was over and done with, buried in the tomb of 8-track tapes, VHS movies, vinyl record albums, reel to reel recorders, transistor radios, beepers and dial telephones.

When we turned that first computer on, we had to wait up to 20 minutes or so for just one Internet page to load – in a weird gold and brown since the screen didn’t display in color.

Back then the company I worked for had a room solely devoted to their computers. There was a raised static-free floor and the room was kept so cold the operators kept winter parkas on during their shifts.

I’m so happy with our options now. My phone sends me a charming sound when I have an email, I get text messages and I can access the Internet.

I had no clue that at some point in my life I’d care about my hairdo when my phone rang. The Boy and I use FaceTime to talk to one another. It’s a video phone, much like we dreamed of back in the day of Star Trek and The Jetsons. I love it when he calls me because instead of just smiling into the camera on my phone like normal people I put my eye right into the camera so that when the call connects he ends up seeing just my eyeball. I blink. It cracks me up, but not as much as when I stuck the dog’s nose into the camera. Funny, but he doesn’t call very often.

Our first VHS player had a remote control. It was 1984 and we paid a gazillion dollars for it. The remote was attached by a cord that was about ten feet long so it easily reached from the TV to the sofa. We were thrilled with the technology that allowed us to watch movies at home and not have to get up for anything except more popcorn. It was a perfect solution and we couldn’t imagine what could be better.

Then laser discs entered the market for a full ten minutes. They were so expensive that anyone who purchased a system and a few movies on disc might still be making payments on them. Laser discs were way out of our league since we were still paying on the amazing VHS player with the corded remote.

Right now I have a PC on my desk. It is old but has a flat screen that is still in great working order. The color is just fine and it’s big enough so I can write my articles in visual comfort. But when it was time to replace my laptop I went from a PC to a Mac. I may as well have taken up driving in England.

I’m still trying to figure out how to rotate a photo and I have a friend coming over this afternoon to help with that.

Right when I thought I was pretty savvy with this stuff I find it difficult to do some of the most basic tasks. Besides the Mac, we have a few other Apple gadgets now and the cords have taken over the house. They are plugged in everywhere but when I need to charge something I can rarely find one. They are also so short that when my phone rings I often yank the cord out by mistake. It drives me crazy, which is a very short trip.

But I love the Mac, just as I used to love that VHS player. The Mac wakes up immediately, offering a ton of simple and smart applications.

I can’t imagine anything better, but there will be – just as there was back in the day of DOS, back when changing the station on the television meant getting up and turning a dial – cah-chunk, cah-chunk, cah-chunk – with three stations to choose from.

So what will it take to impress us now? Screens that float in the air? Cars that drive themselves? I can see the potential in both. I could seriously multi-task with a screen that follows me around like a puppy and oh, how I would love to just kick back and surf the web while driving to the grocery store.

What could be better? I can’t imagine. Bring it on – but cordless, please.


Kathy Bohannon is a Georgia Press Association award winner and regular contributor to The Newnan Times-Herald. Kathy’s book Gardens of Savannah will be on bookshelves in late May 2012.

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