Sunday, May 3, 2009

History of the Computer

a few months back doug belshaw ( tweeted that he'd just blogged ( his computer history, and asked others to do so in a reply to his post. having a think, i decided that i would reply to doug (who's only 28) and here is what i wrote:
>>now i feel very old! i started using a computer for work as an admin assistant back in 1985 (that excludes the electronic "word processor", hahaha, that replaced my typewriter). we had DOS in those days, and had to learn word perfect, wordstar, and a variety of now defunct word processing programmes. the printer was a monster that was so loud we couldn't answer the phones when it was printing a document. then i moved on to spreadsheets. way before point and click to adjust things like font size, column width and the like, we had wissywig (WSSYWG if i recall correctly) to make them look "pretty", uh, aesthetically pleasing, for printing. i'm sorry, i can't remember the name of the spreadsheet program i used before excel came out. still, it beat typing and having to line up all those figures, though getting half spaces was a bit of a challenge.

before the invention of windows and the mouse, most people in my position had to familiarise themselves with DOS to work out any glitches, install new programs, etc. in addition, we had to modify our word docs with codes, such as "hold down CTL, SFT, AND F3 for italics" (not an exact match - those days were long ago and i don't remember!). ah, those were the days. not. i had to have a cheat sheet of all those damn codes and the highlight code didn't always work properly, so editing text took a long time and caused a lot of anxiety on deadline.

my first home computer came in 1991. it was almost bigger than the cheap warehouse stationery desk i'm sitting at now, weighed about 30 lbs, and had a monitor screen 5 times smaller than the monitor casing itself. it used those, what were they, 5" floppy diskettes? eye-straining orange text against a black background. a friend cobbled it together for me, so it wasn't any particular brand. started using the net not too long after. bulletin boards were already huge back then. i even belonged to a daily listserv for one site that updated everyone's comments daily in a single email, which seemed incredible i learned html thanks to the university i was teaching at by then, around 1997-8 if i recall correctly. that was heaps easier for a non-programmer like me. we had a real-time chat available for student assistance, in conjunction with a bulletin board where students could post their work in advance, and that seemed so far out!

as for moving up with the times, i traded in the cobbled together deal for a second hand apple something in 1993. no offense apple folks, but i hated it. when anything went wrong, it would simply shut down with a frown-y face on the screen. coming from DOS, where you could get out of the programmes and fix it yourself with a good manual, i found this need to run to the repair shop every other week frustrating and threw the damn thing out about 6 months later after it froze up for the umpteenth time. ended up with another desktop gigantor until i got my first dell around 1997/8. why dell? they offered a good deal for what i wanted. it cost about $1800, and that was sans printer or any of the extras that are standard now.

never had one problem with the dell, but upgraded to an HP desktop in 2000 (for the princely sum of $700), then traded that in for a variety of laptops in 2005. went through a laptop a year until i found toshiba. am now using a toshiba satellite with windows XP provided by the ministry of education for a mere $45/quarter which is updated every 3 years, to which i've added a variety of software that suits my purposes (and at my cost). am very loyal to the brand, as even though i've had some minor annoyances (disk drive sensor not reading, LAN not reading), they are tough as nails and can take the abuse i dish out, lugging it to school every day and from classroom to classroom (and i once stomped on a fit of rage - silly, i know, but it continued to work just fine! even the screen didn't crack! - oh, that was one i bought personally , not a moe one, lol). here at home we each have a laptop (about $NZ1K) and wireless broadband internet ($arm & leg here in NZ). love the freedom, and the ability to look up anything i want to know at anytime, anywhere.

even though technology sometimes drives me bats, i certainly do not miss the days of carbon paper and white out sheets, and i especially love not having to type papers over a zillion times to get the footnotes spaced correctly! plus, as an american living abroad (sorry for all the miscellaneous spellings), keeping in touch with family and friends with webcams, blogs, photo sites, and skype is a real blessing for us. i use my laptop for everything - planning lessons, creating resources, letter writing (i still write regular letters in addition to email), managing my husband's business, and i'm on the net about 6 hours a day! every day i show my students a new website that may interest them, and i use a social networking site to keep in touch with them and offer outside of class quizzes and the like. i love powerpoint for class presentations, especially for poetry and film, and can't live without WinDVD (the pay-for one that captures stills). i also love access to online music, which i listen to at home on my lappy, even though i don't own an mp3/4 player of my own yet (dd's got an ipod though, as well as a $35 mp3 player, which has been less hassle than the ipod, sorry again apple folks). this year my students will keep a class blog, and i am investigating a class wiki, but one new thing at a time, eh?

thanks for bringing back memories doug! and i found you via twitter, another modern social media tool i really enjoy :O)<<
3 months down the road, i have finally bought a smartphone, and am enjoying listening to my mp3 files on it, though, of course, the damn bluetooth isn't working! there's *always* something, eh?

i had (read: paid) a student in over the weekend to help me convert files and edit. he fiddled and faddled and got my lappy & new phone doing everything i wanted ever so much quicker than i'd be able to, for which i am VERY GRATEFUL ANDREW! :O) now i hope to find the time to actually do the video thing now that's it's workable, which has been my goal for nearly 3 years now!

in the meantime, something else i'd like to comment on is online bookmarking services. while i know i've mentioned this before, and many more people are using them now, i'd like to repeat how convenient they are. i visit sooooo many sites everyday from my rss feed, or twitter, or several other ways, and most of them i'd never visit again without delicious or diigo to keep them organised for me. if you aren't using an online bookmark service, visit or (at diigo you can organise your bookmarks by both tags and categories). you can organise, share, and even add others to your network to get their bookmarks as well, but you can access them from any computer anywhere. don't you hate it when you're travelling and have to use a friends, or an internet cafe, and then can't remember a site? well i do! online bookmarks solved that little dilemma. just add a bookmarklet to your bookmarks bar and you're set to go! if you'd like to visit my bookmarks, you can at or

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.