Posts Tagged ‘computer history’

I watched this Limpkin during my month-long winter exploration of the Everglades. But I used my computer to educate myself about its ranges and habits.

“Our computers have become windows through which we can gaze upon a world that is virtually without horizons or boundaries.”

Learning New Tricks

I was working for the Fort Worth Star-telegram back in the 1970s when technology first invaded my life. It came in the form of a newfangled thing called a computer that suddenly we reporters had to type our stories on. I was certain I couldn’t do it.

It took me two weeks — during which I would use the typewriter to write, then copy what I had written onto the computer — before I realized I actually could write on the dang technological wonder. That was early enough in the computer age that the computers assigned to us reporters would only allow editing of eight lines of copy before it couldn’t be changed any more,

Not such a wonder at all compared to my next run in with using a computer at the Standard-Examiner in

This was a view visible from my bedroom balcony a few weeks ago. But to learn more about the fire that was ravaging Arizona’s Catalina Mountain Range, I went online to read the news about the blaze. 

Ogden, Utah, where I had accepted a job as lifestyle editor in late 1979. This newspaper used a Morgenthaler computer system that taught me how to cuss.

While there was no limit on lines that could be edited, the machines had a tendency to suddenly shut down and everything that had not been saved was lost. Because I would often forget to push the save button frequently. I sometimes lost whole stories I had spent hours writing.

Then there were the computers at the Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho, where I was regional editor for a couple of years. The Times’ computers suffered from a storage problem. They sometimes began eating copy that had been edited at the start of the day. My cussing improved at the Times.

When I returned to the Standard-Examiner as assistant city editor in 1985, things were better, but my attitude toward computers had changed. While I had been determined in those early years to learn everything I could about operating a computer, all I wanted to know now was which button to push so the danged thing would do what I wanted it to do instead of what it wanted to do.

I relied on the paper’s tech guys immensely, and they always came through the numerous times I called on them. Having zero patience, I had the habit of too quickly pushing every button on the keyboard when something didn’t happen quickly enough. The teckies nicknamed me Trouble.

My personal first computer, purchased around 1987 if I remember correctly and which I frequently crashed, didn’t even have a hard drive but came with a DOS operating system.  Out of curiosity, I just looked up DOS on Wikipedia and learned that it stands for Disk Operating System and that it had a 16-bit operating system that didn’t support multitasking. My grandkids were more comfortable operating it than I was.

I’m not sure how many personal computers I’ve gone through since then, but I do know that early on I replaced them every two or three years because they so quickly became outdated.

When I retired in 2004 and began nine years of living and traveling on the road in a small RV, I bought my first laptop, and used my phone as a modem to submit freelance stories. In 2006, I got a Verizon hot spot that worked sometimes, but mostly in larger towns. By the time I got off the road in 2013, it mostly worked everywhere.

Thankfully, while my patience hasn’t improved, my latest laptop computer is usually reliable and fast enough to keep me from randomly pushing buttons. I still, however, miss my teckies when my computer does misbehave. But then I am extremely proud of myself when I finally solve the problem on my own — usually after hours and hours of trying everything before finally reading the instructions.

I’ve gone from growing up without a home television until I was 14 to not being able to live without a computer. I use it for writing, submitting freelance articles, emailing and face-timing with friends and family, reading the news, playing games, taking educational classes, learning new skills, birdwatching (live cams and YouTube), storing my writing and photographs, armchair traveling, shopping, and watching television programs and movies since I don’t own a TV. I also use my computer daily to quench my curiosity when I want to know something – like what DOS stands for.

I guess an old broad, this one born almost 25 years before the first commercial computer went on the market, can learn new tricks.

Bean Pat: Cornell University for its Bird Lab live birding cams that let me birdwatch from my bedroom chair during the coronavirus. Thank you. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.



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