Homage to Three Computers by
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(241 Stories)

Prompted By My First Computer

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My beloved iMac 7.1

When I joined Retrospect, one of my first stories, published on August 21, 2018 and inspired by the prompt “Disasters,” was My First Experience with a Computer Was a Disaster. And indeed, it was. Here is part of what I wrote:

It wasn’t until 2006 that I actually bought a computer for myself, my beloved iMac-7.1.

Computer #1

When my son turned thirteen back in 1984, we bought him an Apple IIc computer. I was both in awe of this machine and afraid of its presence in our home. It resided in the family room where I could keep a close eye on its influence on my son. It required a floppy disk to operate and emitted strange beeps and grinding sounds as greenish words flashed on the screen. My son adapted to it quickly. I watched from a distance, amazed by his mastery of this machine. Did I dare to try?

At the time, I had returned to graduate school to earn a Master’s degree in early childhood education. That meant I had to write papers. For a hunt and peck typist prone to spelling errors, that meant a lot of white-out and retyping. After closely observing my son, sometime in early 1985 I decided to use the computer to write my Master’s thesis. Wow. This was great. I got up every morning at 5:00 a.m. to work on it before my son and his younger sisters got up for school. But when I decided to print out the paper (remember those printers that used fan-folded paper with holes on the sides?) disaster struck. My thesis had vanished. The computer had eaten it and refused to spit it out.

By the time my son went off to college, he got a new Apple desktop from the school store and the Apple IIc was all mine. When we started Cherry Preschool in 1991, we received many generous donations. Among them was an IBM desktop computer and printer like the one in the pictured here:

Computer #2

I guess I can claim that this was my first computer because technically it was mine to use. Because I was writing newsletters and other communications for a preschool, I wanted things to look “cute” and eye-catching, but in those days, computers were really glorified typewriters. I did teach myself to use early versions of Quicken and Excel, but mostly I produced things like this:

To make my communications more likely to catch parents’ eyes, I added clip art — literally. I reduced the kids’ drawings on our copier, cut them out, glued them to my document, used whiteout to cover the lines around the pasted-in art, and copied the whole thing to create information printed on brightly colored paper to be sure my readers would pay attention. The whole thing was ridiculously time-consuming, but at the time, I felt it was worth doing to make our school’s communications look appealing.

A few years down the line, our next computer and software included a disc of clip art I could actually place directly into a document as well as a variety of fonts. I was now a desktop publisher, which I loved. My motto was to communicate early and often to pre-empt any problems that might be brewing, and to put bad news in the “friendly font” (Comic Sans, which I still use for email).

Computer #3

Still, none of these work computers were truly mine. It wasn’t until 2006 that I actually bought a computer for myself, my beloved iMac-7.1. I loved that machine and mourned its passing eight years later.

Obituary for an iMac Computer
Published in ChicagoNow, August 25, 2014

Laurie’s iMac-7.1 (2006-2014) died suddenly on August 20, 2014. Loving companion of Laurie Levy, she was pronounced dead at the Apple Store after suffering a sudden attack of black screen, followed by a loud fan motor noise when trying to be revived. In lieu of flowers, contributions (both monetary and educational) may be made to Laurie’s learning curve on her iMac-14.1.

Not loving the new one yet

My old computer is now interred in a box in my basement, awaiting recycling or perhaps my son-in-law if he wants to attempt a hard drive transplant. And after meeting with an Apple genius and two one-to-one specialists, I am still mourning my good old iMac-7.1.

My new partner has a fancy wireless mouse and keyboard that eluded the computer’s attempts to find them. After much gnashing of teeth and googling, I sheepishly discovered the batteries that came with both were dead. So simple.

Not so simple is adapting to changes, many of which do not seem like improvements to me. For one, after much searching for a slot for CDs and DVDs, I turned to Google and discovered that there was none. I guess the folks in Cupertino who designed this incarnation decided CDs and DVDs were old school.

Well, Apple guys and gals, I am old school. All of my CDs and DVDs full of photos, music, and documents I’ve written on other computers, as well as my beloved movie projects, can no longer be viewed or used in my work. No problem. I just purchased yet another item from the amazingly crowded Apple Store – a USB Super Drive for a mere $80. That’s on top of the cost of a pretty expensive computer and the $99 for a year of free one-on-one sessions to learn the ins and outs of my new computer. And now I have my sleek new iMac sharing space on my desk with a cute little box that I didn’t need before.

But wait. There are more reasons (aside from monetary) why I am mourning my old iMac. New iMac is doing some strange things. New iMovie apparently doesn’t like anything created on old iMovie and refuses to open anything from it. New iPhoto has created yet another large folder called “recovered photos,” forcing me to spend hours going through it to see what is lurking in its depths. New Contacts doesn’t like some of my former friends and contacts. And new iCal has decided some of my events were no longer worthy of inclusion.

I know how this goes. I will spend a ridiculous amount of time getting this right and adjusting to my new friend. I will spend more money on a service call from my computer guru. Together, we will figure out the movie problem and why my brand new backup drive now thinks it’s full.

I guess 8+ years is a long time in the lifespan of a computer, and this obituary should include, “She lived a long and full life, beloved by all who knew her, and we were lucky to have had her with us for so long. Her work will live on forever (if only I could find all of it).”

Don’t forget, you can honor her memory by contributing to my learning curve fund. Seriously, please enlighten me. Will my second partnership with an iMac be as fulfilling as the first one?*

 

*It was not. Now on my third version which, like me, is showing signs of aging.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: funny, well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Wonderful story of our attachment to technology, your clever uses thereof and how new isn’t necessarily better. It is SO frustrating that the geniuses at Apple do not make their products upwardly compatible and all your beloved movies, photos and art were not just moved to the new computers. My home computer is about 10 years old, the operating system is no longer supported and I suspect I will be in for a rude shock when it is time for a new one (soon).

    • Laurie Levy says:

      You will be Betsy, so keep your old one going as long as you can. It took tons of work to preserve what I had lost, although I have to admit that I don’t watch those old family and special event movies I made very much. They are on DVDs, but we didn’t junk our DVD player, so maybe something fun to do today?

  2. John Shutkin says:

    What a great, comprehensive computer history, Laurie! I especially love your sharing of examples of your own, brilliant early usage of clip art and other such early era esoteria to attract attention to your materials.

    As to your iMac future, I can’t help. Despite having very early Apple computers at home, I’ve been a PC guy most of my personal and professional computer life. I am now a big fan of iPhones (and, more recently, my Apple watch), but have never felt the need or urge to switch to Apple for my desktop/laptop/tablet.

    Plus, I’ve always been reticent to advise others on such highly intimate issues as their personal relationships with their computers. (-:

    • Laurie Levy says:

      What can I say, John. I’m hooked on all things Apple. The more I add, most recently the watch, the more glitches I have with all of my stuff working together. But I’m stubborn and soldier through it. The new PCs (my husband has a laptop for his work) are more similar to my iMac, so who knows … maybe I’ll take the plunge some day. But what will happen to the ridiculous number of photos I have on my iPhone that are also on my Mac? I think I’ll nurse my current iMac along and see what happens.

  3. Khati Hendry says:

    I laughed at your travails only because they were so familiar and so amusingly told. Loved the obituary for the computer. The newsletters look like works of art indeed too—glad you had some to share. Retrieving old information through constantly updating technology does make me value hard copies—I have printed out my Retro stories before they are lost to cyber death.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      I learned the hard way to print out hard copies of my work when The Chicago Tribune closed ChicagoNow with no real warning. Because some of the bloggers saw the writing on the wall, I quickly saved my work by copying it into Word. Now, I’m in the process of printing it out. For some reason, I was more saavy about my Retro stories and made hard copies as I went along. Recently, they were looking for an important document at my preschool and couldn’t find it on the computer. They called me and I directed the to the paper files, and there it was!

  4. Thanx Laurie for the saga of your various relationships with your computers, and the sweet obituaries!

    But what happened to your Masters thesis that the computer refused to spit out?!?!

  5. Suzy says:

    Great story about your travails with three different computers. We’ve all had similar problems, although losing your thesis was probably the worst horror story I ever heard. Love your literal clip art – I did the same thing with a holiday letter, pasting actual pictures in the margins of the typed copy, as I described in “Please Read the Letter” https://www.myretrospect.com/stories/please-read-the-letter/

    Now of course we are all much more computer savvy – at least I think so!

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