User Unfriendly: Age makes a difference when using computers.

I was born in 1965. When I was a very small child, my Dad worked on one of the first computers in the state. He took me to see it. It filled an entire room and was programmed with punch cards. My non-smart phone probably has more memory than that behemoth did. My Dad used to bring me punch cards home to play with.

It was the 60's

It was the 60’s

I didn’t see anything like a modern PC until I was a senior in high school. Our high school got a couple and put them in the library. There were no classes to teach you to use them, and it was hard to get time on them. I didn’t try. I was busy enough as it was, and I didn’t have time to fight for limited time on a machine I didn’t know how to use.

It was the 80's.  A fun time, but not very computer-ridden.

It was the 80’s. A fun time, but not very computer-ridden.

College wasn’t much more computer friendly. Students did not yet have personal computers, as they remained too expensive for personal use. There was a computer lab with banks of the things that were used by people taking computer classes. The only available classes were for programing and already outdated computer languages such as BASIC, and FORTRAN. There were no classes at the time that simply taught one how to use a computer. It was the mid-1980’s, and while the internet was being born, it was still a realm for academia. Neither I, nor anyone I knew, had ever been on the internet. It didn’t really become mainstream until the 90’s.

In 1989 I first put my hands on a computer. I was working at a theatre in Syracuse, and my boss had a PC in her office that she encouraged her employees to learn to use. No internet yet, but I ran into my first word processing program, and taught myself to use it. It wasn’t easy. When you are 24 before you first get to use a computer, and there is no internet or Google to answer your questions, it’s difficult to learn to use any sort of program.

By 1990. I had at least used a computer.

By 1990. I had at least used a computer.

Around 1995, my fiancé and I got our first personal computer. It was a hand-me-down from Brian’s parents. They had switched up to a better machine, and were kind enough to let us have the old one. By this time, more and more people were getting personal computers, but they were still outrageously expensive. The average price for a computer was around 3,000 bucks. Far more that we could have afforded. Our first computer had 4 bytes of RAM. Yeah, you read that correctly. I did not forget to add an “M,” there wasn’t one. Bytes. Not Megabytes, and Gigs were a pipe dream at that time. It was enough to get us online to check email, but if we tried to access a website, the entire system would crash. My fiancé had majored in computer science at college, and between his know-how, and my sister-in-law’s spare parts, he upgraded the computer enough that we could go on the internet. It was fun, but it wasn’t the information superhighway that it is now. Google wouldn’t become a thing for two more years. If you wanted to view a website, you kinda had to know where it was already.

1990's.  Webcams become a thing.  They took really grainy pictures.

1990’s. Webcams become a thing. They took really grainy pictures.

So what is the point of this history of computers in my life?

I have learned a great deal about computers during my lifetime. I’ve taught myself to use programs like Word, Paint Shop Pro, and FrontPage. Brian has taught me a lot about computers. I can swap out a hard drive, and remove viruses. For being 49 years old, I am pretty computer savvy.

Computer programs still occasionally make me want to tear my hair out.

My children’s book, Leonardo Da Bunni, is in the process of being published through CreateSpace. I was smart this time. I picked my trim size, font size, etc., and wrote the book in the format I planned to use. I had already taught myself about page breaks and linking or unlinking sections when I formatted my mother’s book for her. When I uploaded the book for the first time, I had some picture DPI issues, but no formatting errors. Sometime during the editing process, I had a few minor issues to fix.

That’s when I lost page 58.

I’m not talking about the page numbers that I inserted, I’m saying that my word document did not have a page 58 at all. The tab that tells you the page you are on skipped from 57 to 59. 58 didn’t exist, so when I uploaded it to Createspace, they added a blank page with no border, no formatting, no nothing.

Because I did not grow up knowing about computers, because I taught myself the basics of Word, and learned new things as I needed them, I had no idea what to do.

I tried shouting at Word that there was too a page 58, but it didn’t believe me. Google was no help. Try searching “missing page in Word” and you’ll get a lot of information about inserting page numbers and sections, which was not the problem.

It took countless hours and thousands of lives, but I fixed the problem. Ok, I am exaggerating. It took about 30 minutes of hair-pulling-out fun. I fixed it, I’m not even sure how. It involved moving words and then trying to put them back in place without making page 58 disappear again. The new file was uploaded, and Leo should go live tomorrow.

I’m proud of all I’ve learned about computers during my life. The knowledge didn’t come easy, and a lot of my self-taught lessons have holes in them. Some days, there is no such thing as user friendly.

Leonardo will be released if I have to pull all my hair out!

Leonardo will be released if I have to pull all my hair out!

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About JulianneQJohnson

I am a writer in Indiana who lives with two cats, two ferrets, and one fiance. I enjoy cheap coffee and expensive chocolate.
This entry was posted in Change, Leonardo Da Bunni, Self Publishing, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to User Unfriendly: Age makes a difference when using computers.

  1. linnetmoss says:

    My experience similar to yours as I was born the same year! (Your Christmas photo gave me a little nostalgia.) Got my first Mac in 89!

  2. FORTRAN was already obsolete in the 80’s? It must be the Latin of programming languages. All meteorology majors were required to take it at my college in the mid 90’s, and everyone said it was outdated, but I had no clue just how outdated! That and BASIC were the only 2 programming languages I ever had any instruction in, and was happy that I could make simple programs with them… back when I even knew how to write programs!

    • I know little of computer languages, but I remember computer students complaining about learning FORTRAN back in the mid-80’s. Like most tech courses, by the time there is a class for it, it’s often too late.

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