Evolution in Three Parts

Like most of you, I’m from that awkward generation between people who grew up without computers and those whose thumbs are changing shape due to texting.

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My office was proud to show off the Xerox 860, the ultimate in word processors.

I remember how excited we were at work to get our first word processor, a Xerox 860. We even hired a carpenter to build a special cabinet for it, to protect it from dust. It took up as much room as a small freezer. People came from other offices to look at it. I’m surprised we didn’t genuflect as we passed the thing.

My first office computer was an Apple IIe. Those two drives under the screen? For 5-inch floppies.

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This was before Windows, when everything was DOS. You know when you restart your computer after it crashes and there’s a black screen with white letters and a blinking cursor, and you can only use the arrow and “Enter” keys to navigate because your mouse doesn’t work? That’s pretty much DOS. Try writing disciplinary memoranda on that sucker.

I’ve come a long way. Before they invented blogs, I built my own website using Dreamweaver. That was about ten years ago and I still have a headache.

When I first started using email, I was a little annoyed that a lot of my contemporaries weren’t. These are women who, like me, worked with IBM Selectrics and rotary-dial phones. At the time, a lot of them still shared an email address with their husbands. Something cute like Two4theRoad@BigFatRV.com. Or they got their email through the corporate server, which wasn’t accessible at home. Since they didn’t have a computer.

My kids, all Gen X, don’t check their email very often. Like it’s painful for them, due to the time and effort it takes. Much less tedious to text.

I joined Facebook three years ago. Seems like a lot longer. Now I’m addicted. It’s the first place I go in the morning, before email or news, and I check it throughout the day. There are a couple of groups I belong to – okay, ten or twelve – but one, GenFab, is like insanely active on FB. And I’m afraid if I don’t check in, I’ll miss something important. Like pictures of their dumbest outfits from the eighties, or what sex toys are hot now for boomer women. Weird how things change. Today they’re debating whether using “#FF” on Twitter is relevant anymore, or if it’s basically a scam. And if not, what is the etiquette that would accrue thereto?

You can only shake your head.

But technology has really enriched my life. My mother, who is 87 and has lived without it, is deprived. I’m not trying to be funny. She has a curious mind and if she were a few years younger, would be Googling all day long. About a year ago, I tried to show her how to use the internet, but I came pretty close to doing more harm than good. She got discouraged, and that tore me up. But that was before her cataract surgery. Maybe I should try again.

Still, sometimes my head hurts. I was born too soon. I was in my thirties by the time all this tech-stuff started coming out.

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Early laptop. Really.

I remember bringing my first personal computer, a DOS laptop, to a union negotiation at the behest of my boss, the chief negotiator for Management. He intimidated Labor by setting it on the table between the two sides, turning it on (so it beeped), and frowning intently at the screen. Labor was nervous, but looking back on it now, I think we must have looked like monkeys with forks.