Friday, April 23, 2010

I am Thankful for My Computers

I own two computers, a desktop I built six and one half years ago and a laptop I bought two years ago. Both are Windows based. Cheryl has an Apple I bought her three years ago. My laptop is a Dell with two 2.2 GHz processors and 4 Gigabytes of RAM memory.  For all of you young people, RAM stands for "Random Access Memory." 

I bought my first computer from Radio Shack in 1982. It was a Tandy, Model III; the monitor and computer were a single unit. It had 48 K of RAM. The salesman said “that’s all the memory you will ever need.” It takes approximately one million kilobytes to make up one gigabyte. My laptop is close to one million times as powerful as my first computer and it doesn’t have all the memory I will ever need.

In 1982 hard drives had not been invented. Programs such as word processing had to be loaded from a floppy drive before they could be used. Documents had to be saved on floppies as well. They were about six inches by six inches and they actually were floppy.

There were very few programs that could be purchased. If you owned a computer you had to know something about the computer language that controlled your system and you probably entered some programs yourself, line by line.

I had bought the computer for word processing. Cheryl and I were both in our doctoral programs. I was the second student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to purchase one. The first was a Th.M. student who had been a computer programmer before accepting a call into ministry.

I wanted Alethea to be exposed to the computer so I purchased a magazine with some games that could be typed into the computer. I selected “Pong,” a simple version of video ping-pong. I literally worked all night programming the computer for her to play video ping-pong the next day. When she awoke that Saturday morning I had just completed my gift for her. I excitedly brought her to the computer to show her the game we could play together. About 90 seconds later she spoke, “Is that all it can do?” She never played the game.

The computer worked fine for very simple word processing. I said very simple; there were no functions like “find and replace” or “cut and paste.” There was only one problem, we couldn’t afford a printer. The owner of the Radio Shack had promised me we could use his printer as long as we were in school. He kept his promise, but seemed less gracious with each printing visit. A couple of years later we were able to purchase a “Silver Reed Daisy Wheel Printer.” It printed about as fast as a good typist. Each page had to be hand loaded. As primitive as it sounds, we were on the cutting edge of technology.

I can be a real sentimental person, but I have no desire to see that first computer. One day I may regret letting Cheryl get rid of it. That would be the day I discover it is a collector’s item. For now, I’m thankful for my current computer. It’s all the computer I’ll ever need. “Ever” has been redefined as a period not exceeding two years, hasn’t it.

Cleveland, Tennessee
April 23, 2010

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