Innovations

Do you remember the first time you used, or heard about, a computer, or a video game?

Computers were really outside my “radar” throughout my childhood and teens. I was aware that they existed, and when I was about 15 years old, I was visiting my cousins in Idaho, and they took us over to a friend’s house, who had built his own computer, which had won a top prize at the US national level of Science Fairs. It was a board with a mass of wires and tubes, and took up quite a lot of space, in fact an entire room! I had no idea what it was for, but it was quite impressive, nonetheless. We did have a foggy idea of the potential of computers from the early “Star Trek” shows and other similar programs. However, computers in my high school years were only used by very large companies and by governments; they were terribly expensive, and they took up huge buildings to accomplish what today would be considered the most simple calculations and word processing. In our schools, “new technology” was comprised of electric typewriters, and for very wealthy students, electronic calculators that did the four basic math operations, and cost about $250, a very large sum at that time. The rest of us used slide rules, and memorized our math facts! (At some point after I graduated, my dad, as the high school commerce teacher, was able to add bulky “word processing” machines to the commerce program – a huge technological step forward, apparently!)

Despite all that, my first “real” job after high school, 1973, was working as a key-punch operator at a local computer company! There were women there who had as much as 19 years of experience – and yet to most of us at that time, computers were really an unknown. I turned out to be a talented key-punch operator, able to do 18,000 strokes an hour with almost no errors! However, sitting there typing away, mostly addresses and simple calculations, 8 hours a day, day in and day out, was not my idea of a great job, and I went on to other things.

When I went to the University of BC, I was introduced to “technologies” like micro-fiche; and I think the University library was being switched over to computers, but only the librarians had access; the rest of us still used the old card catalogues. I took teacher-librarianship, and we were not introduced to computer use at all; school libraries would not start moving into computer use for some years to come, indeed, until desk-top computers became available. I took a film course at university, and we worked with super-8, 33 mm films, and hand animation. No computers!

In the early 1980s I worked for CBC radio in Inuvik, and while we had a variety of technologies, we did not have computers, although when I was sent to Toronto for training, I believe they did have some computer use there at national headquarters.

However, in the late 1970s and early 1980s electronic video-games began to arrive in arcades, with such exciting new games as “Pong!” While we were living in Inuvik, in about 1983 or so, my husband bought himself a wonderful new game system – Coleco-vision! This was our first introduction to in-home computer-based equipment. Lionel spent so many hours playing “Donkey-Kong” that first day that he had to go to emergency at the hospital, as his thumb had swollen badly – he had tendonitis from too many hours of using the joy-stick! Later, we had other game systems such as Intellivision and so on.

My oldest daughter started school in 1986, and within a year or two, was coming home with “documents” she had created on “Apple” computers — very simple, no graphics of course, but quite amazing to me! In 1988, we moved to Mission, where Lionel was attending Bible School, and in 1990 or so, I took a course called “Computers in the Church.” We used 80806(?) computers which did not even have hard drives; to start the computer up, we had to load a large floppy, then remove it and put in another floppy to do our work. We learned to do word processing, basic spreadsheet programs, and so on. Of course there were no graphics, but we could make little “games” by learning a bit of “basic.” Commercial games apparently weren’t yet available, at least as far as I knew.

In 1991, we purchased our first computer. It was a 286, state of the art, with a hard-drive, and a screen that wasn’t just black-and-white; it actually had amber! A friend of ours was so enamoured of it, that he came over to use it all the time; once we weren’t home, and he climbed in through the window to use it. To “pay us” for his use, he would download various programs (without our permission) which he had copied from other computers… and we ended up with some serious viruses! Also, our one-year-old son, Peter, who took to the computer immediately, managed to key in a password, which locked all of us out! Ah, the adventures of technology! Of course I found the whole computer thing pretty nerve-wracking; not so our kids, who took to the new “toy” like ducks to water, and thought it was very funny how nervous mommy was about the whole thing. Later we upgraded to a 486 – with color! – and internet access! – and sound! and then a series of other computers, some our own, and some borrowed from the school district when we were home-schooling; currently we have an XP desktop and a laptop (Some of our kids have Vista on their computers, and tell us we are lucky to still have XP, at least at this stage!). The desk-top of course is a graphics computer, set up to play lots of games, on- and off- line, and also work with photos, videos and so on. Lionel is making great use of it, with his new digital SLR Canon Rebel Xsi – our latest computerized toy!

Over the years, our home has seen a whole series of video game systems; the current system of choice (besides computer games) being the X-Box 360, although we still have an X-box as well; some folks are wishing for Wii, etc! For myself, I have never managed to get much beyond “Pong” ; I once managed to get to the second level of Donkey-Kong, and I can play simple kids games and simple educational games; as well as a variety of simulation games — just don’t ask me to do anything that requires fast reflexes! Even my husband can play most games; so my children are quite discouraged with me. Still, I can create websites, doing my own html, and have 100 friends on Facebook, so I’m not entirely living in the age of dinosaurs! And I play a mean game of bowling on Wii! So there!

Posted: Jun 14, 2008

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