Thursday, July 17, 2003


I don't know that I have ever disclosed this most momentous fact, but I have written most of my blog posts on a Palm using the Docs to Go program. I do this for several reasons. It allows me to type these things seated in a comfortable chair not hunched over a desk, a real advantage for someone with a tremendously bad back. Another reason is that I don't have to type these things directly into Blogger on the Web thereby avoiding the dangers of typing a long post and losing it all to Blogger instability. My remote posting method also provides me some time to ponder what I have written before actually posting it (yes, I do sometimes think about these things) and allows me to keep a copy of my posts in Word on my computer.

However, a new era, of sorts, has dawned. I have a new machine called an AlphaSmart Dana which runs Palm programs but has a significantly larger screen and a full sized key board. It is also all one piece, the screen and the keyboard, offering a certain structural stability previously unavailable with the Palm and its separate keyboard.

I don't know why I'm doing a post on this except to share with you my enthusiasm for novelties. Also, I thought today about the first computer I ever purchased.

It was back in the late 1970s that I shelled out a significant sum, both for then and for now, for a used IBM "Portable Computer." I was practicing as a CPA then and had a client with a turpentine processing plant who needed to keep better track of his inventory. Anyway, my "Portable Computer" was portable only in the loosest sense of the word -- it weighed at least 40 pounds and was about twice the size of the first IBM PCs. The tiny black and white screen was built into the face of the unit. I guess you could describe it as a computer only in the loosest sense of that word too. It used tape cartridges the size of a small book for storage and all programs had to be custom written -- no VisiCalc, no Windows, just good old Basic programming, sequentially accessed. My programmer owned a taco stand; he couldn't make a living just selling tacos or just doing programming, so he did both in the interests of survival.

I hated that computer. It seemed to me to have a malevolent streak. It worked at the slowest possible speed, was reluctant to part with information except under extreme duress, but required constant attention both from me and from the programmer. I would have believed, back then, that it was original the inspiration for Terminator 3. My only really happy experience with it was when I sold it, shortly before the first real PCs came out, without significant financial penalty. One of my few brushes with good timing.

Ever since then I have both owned a computer and held a deep seated, almost visceral, fear of the experience. There are evil spirits in this world, I'm convinced of it.

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