My grandmother began her writing career with a pencil and a piece of paper.( I like to imagine her with a “Big Chief” tablet, but considering Oprah’s current literary controversy, I don’t want to embellish anything.) Later she banged out her weekly columns on a heavy manual typewriter with reluctant keys that required “extreme finger fitness” to depress. I used to try to type and I’d always end up with a bunch of garbled words with missing letters.
My mother’s first manual typewriter was smaller and more efficient, but there was still lots of banging. And Mom hated to make mistakes. I can remember her stopping, rolling up the paper, erasing, rolling the paper back down, re-typing, and then sighing deeply if it didn’t look as neat as she had hoped. Then came the “self-correcting” ribbon and the wonder of backspacing and re-typing. Then she purchased an electric typewriter! Oh, my, what a difference. She could turn out her columns in half the time and with half the wrist and finger fatigue. Later came real magic, real progress…the Word Processor. I remember how pleased she was with the manuscripts it produced. And I was proud of her for adapting to “new technology”.
Mother didn’t live long enough to own a computer, but she would have loved it. I know it has made a tremendous change in my writing simply because I was always such a poor typist. I struggled and struggled to produce anything readable on a typewriter, even an electric one. I made mistakes and hated the look of the corrections. I left out words and had to re-type whole pages to get them back in place. I’d finish typing a page and then think of a much better way to end the third paragraph. I think I tore up at least as many pages as I kept. The computer changed all that. The computer has a “user friendly” keyboard, spell check, delete key, different typefaces, sizes, “cut and paste”. I can type almost as quickly as I can think, and if I make a mistake I can correct it before it reaches the paper…what more could a writer want?
Ah yes, what more?…there’s the problem and the solution all rolled into one. We always want more. We usually figure out how to get more. And then we get used to the more and we want more. And more.We’re never content for very long.
And in the meantime, in order to get more, we must endure change, whether we want to or not. I went to WalMart to buy floppy disks and discovered that they now sell two small packages, right next to the fifteen different CDs and DVDs they carry. I don’t have to be hit on the head. I’ve lived through records, 8-Tracks, and cassettes. I see the day coming when I won’t be able to buy a new VCR for my old VHS tapes. I’ve noticed that the film for my “old fashioned” camera has been moved to the lower shelves and that the space has been reduced by a third. I know my cell phone is obsolete, my land phone is antiquated, my television is archaic, and my limited two-channel reception inconceivable. I can’t even TIVO! And I can’t keep up.
My neighbor called and asked me to help her install some gardening software on her new computer. She’s over eighty-five! She’s seen more changes and inventions than I have, and she’s still adapting and changing, still trying to keep up. She’s learning about this new technology and using it to meet her needs. She doesn’t understand as much about the computer as I do. I don’t understand as much as my children do. My children don’t understand as much as the next generation will. Progress.
The children in my kindergarten class expect instant communication, instant photos, instant reruns, and instant gratification. We have computers in the classroom, a plasma TV in the hall, digital cameras to record events, Power Point presentations for assemblies. My students know about email and X-box, and DVRs. I wasn’t even sure if that’s how to spell X-box! But as modern and progressive as we think we are and they are and our world is, tomorrow’s generation will think of all this as obsolete and antiquated and archaic, because it will be. Something better and more efficient will be invented. Something faster. Something brighter. Something more appealing. Something wonderful and magic. That’s the way of the world. Progress brings problems and those problems bring more progress.
In a few years I’ll be sitting here talking to a machine that will listen to me, type my words, post them to my blog, and ask me what photos I want to insert and where. I’ve already taken a class in voice-activated word processing and the only deterrent to my success was this darn Okie accent. The software was unable to recognize what I was saying! Imagine that. I’m waiting for someone to invent a computer with better ears! Until then I’ll make do with this ancient thing.