Your computer’s toast

Deep in the recesses of my files rests a photo of ‘60s vintage showing a gentleman inside a lab that has a dismaying similarity to Frankenstein’s workshop. The man looks like a scientist surrounded by huge rolls of paper (remember the perforated paper we used to feed through printers?); there’s a TV set with a tube the size of the Llano Estacado (no flat screens in those days), and an array of blinking lights in a control panel that rivals the Starship Enterprise.

The gist of the photo is the layout of what computers soon would look like. Even by ‘60s dollars, the layout must have cost millions.

Let’s do some math: The computer Highlands provided my journalism lab around 1990 featured a heavy, oversized green monitor, a central processing unit, and a standard keyboard. For the $2,400 my department paid for it, for a few days it was “high tech,” even though it lacked the ability to save files, unless we fed it a 5-1/4 floppy disc.

So proud of my acquisition, I dragged my oldest son, Stanley Adam, a Highlands student at the time, to my office to show off my new toy.

My first-born’s comment, uttered without haughtiness: “Dad, that computer’s already toast. Wanna see what they have in the regular computer lab?” Well, nothing he could have shown me would have registered, as, at the time, my only use for computers was word processing.

True, my take on technology in those days was simply the ability to type a letter or a lesson plan, crank it out on a dot matrix printer, and wow! all my students to death.

My neighbor and colleague, Ron Maestas, of the HU business department, gave me a pep talk that’s lasted all these 25 years. He likened me to the person who buys a microwave oven for only one thing: heating water for coffee. “Your computer can do so much more,” Ron assured me.

Well, a lot has changed since then. I shudder to realize that the ubiquitous cell phone every person on the planet carries today probably has many times more technology, capability and capacity than my new arrival, back in the ‘80s, when I taught journalism.

• • •

On my Facebook page, I have posted a photo of about 20 middle-eastern youths I espied hanging out next to an ice cream shop in Oslo, Norway, where we traveled when visiting our son, who (naturally) works with computers in Denmark. Bonnie and I entered the shop and tried to get online with the small iPad I took along. A young man, sensing our frustration, punched in the necessary password, and we were set — to send emails to our Ameri can friends and family.

The young man spoke perfect English, as he explained not only technology, but the great city of Oslo as well. We heard not one utterance of “like,” “ya know,” “whatever” or “stuff like that.” We asked why a host of young middle-eastern men (some in street clothes, others in native garb) had gathered outside the shop, almost directly below our window.

“The ice cream shop is ‘wired’; it gives those who are close free Internet service,” he said. Now that impressed me: not that anything was free, but that many people spent large parts of the day sending messages to one another. Otherwise, they might have been watching a movie, catching up on the news, or listening to music. But judging by the digital dexterity they exhibited, I surmised they were doing what everybody does: texting.

Last week, KRQE-TV showed a clip of a UNM campus scene. Almost every student not only carried a cell phone but was actively chatting or texting.

But those actions present even more questions: Whom are they texting/chatting with? Is every break between classes an occasion to re-establish contact with — whomever?

Do the callers/texters have urgent messages, which only their moms and/or sweethearts need to be privy to? “Mom, I’m going to the restroom now. ROFLMFAO.” We’ve become such a wild, weird and wired world that we must feel a void if not in constant touch with others.

• • •

Andrew Weil, a health-and-fitness guru who appears on PBS, recently delivered a workshop on how people can recharge. The first thing he prescribed was doing without a cell phone or computer for a number of days. Would anybody on the planet survive such a regimen? All of you have seen, say, a family of four, seated in a restaurant booth, all doing their own thing.

I used to believe their “thing” was communicating. But no-oo, Missy is texting “laughing out loud” or “lots of love” to Brad; Junior is playing Angry Birds; Mom is texting her bridge partner, and Dad is looking at pictures of Katherine Zeta Jones. The simple inference would be that the family of four is angry, not speaking to one another, but letting their fingers do the talking, as they await their huevos rancheros.

Before a trip to Albuquerque, several years ago, a friend insisted we take her cell phone, about as big as a horse’s leg and inside a box the size of a small coffin. And to show that we’d really “arrived,” Bonnie made sure to place several calls and to remind all that “I’m on a cell phone.”

Our granddaughter, Celina, whom we took to Missouri two years ago, asked to speak to her mother back in New Mexico. Her aunt Kay dialed the number from her home phone and handed it to Celina, who didn’t really know what the object was.

Remember those corded, heavy, black plastic phones that we see in old movies? Well, Kay’s phone was older than that, with a rotary dial, a crank that used to work, and a wooden frame that supported the 40 pounds of bulky equipment.

Celina had a difficult time communicating with her mother — until Aunt Kay adjusted the behemoth of a phone, which Celina had unwittingly been holding upside-down.

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