Call me fickle. I used to love my cartridge pen in high school and college and wrote everything with that little missile of blue ink tucked into the pen’s handle. (Hundreds of pens later, I like a simple blue Bic–it rarely leaks onto my paper or explodes in my purse.) But college papers had to be turned in typed, so I was sent off to Mount Holyoke with a new, manual typewriter. If I loved my cartridge pen, I was smitten with my Smith Corona. I wrote all my papers by hand in college and then typed them out on flimsy parchment paper, draft after draft, perfecting every phrase, every line, every sentence for my professors, and driving myself and my roommates nuts.
I typed one MacBeth paper so late into the night that my then, hard contact lenses fused to my eyes, and I had to be walked to the infirmary where a doctor injected Novocaine into my face to extract the little rounds of plastic. Eye patches and one over-due paper later, I vowed to never let things get so carried away, but my perfectionism plagued me until the end. I was never one who could compose on the typewriter either, like a friend who always finished in half the time by typing one copy once, rather than three drafts of each paper. And we often turned out four papers in any given week, especially in our Senior year. We were English majors.
Upon graduation, my very generous and understanding aunt, Millie Parke, gifted me with an electric typewriter. It was my Cadillac –powerful and fast. It doubled my speed and halved my production time–a much-needed enhancement in my graduate years. But I was still too much the perfectionist–skilled with the reddish-round eraser with the little black brush (the art was not to tear a hole in the paper while eradicating the rogue misspelled word) and master of the trick of landing the key directly over the white tape carbon strips that I bought by the gross.
When I started teaching in 1977, computers were not yet part of the public school world. We wrote our attendance on paper forms, used blackboards and white chalk, wore purple ditto marker on our midriffs, and recorded grades onto index cards in a crowded faculty lounge.
My first introduction to a computer was on our den’s desk, when our family broke down in the mid-80s and bought a $3,500.00 HP, a desk-sized machine with floppy discs and a tower. Truly medieval by today’s standards, and for a king’s ransom. While my 7 and 10- year-old sons quickly mastered the keyboard and game modes, I merely saw it as a glorious typewriter. I never did much more than compose e-mails, which my sons continually reminded me were supposed to be short. “Chapter 10,” my younger son would yell into the room, awaiting his turn on the one computer in the house, bemoaning the fact that my missives were not “emails” but endless tomes. (That still hasn’t changed).
Several computers later, each one faster and fancier than the next, and astonishingly less expensive, I still feared the wizardry of those machines. My sons urged me to try things, assuring me I could not break anything, or worse yet, lose what I had written if I hit the wrong button, but I stuck to my e-mailing for many years. It wasn’t until my sons were away at college, and I was working on my first publication–a children’s book, that I was forced to ante up. My publisher’s art director and illustrator advised me to invest in a Mac–better graphics–so I did. And I made my first PowerPoint for a school presentation, with the help of my neighbor’s 7th-grade daughter. My 12-year-old niece taught me how to download a photo from my camera onto IPhoto, and it seemed like pure magic.
I remember, many years earlier, when her father, my brother-in-law, announced at his graduation from Case Western, that he had majored in computer engineering. I asked what that was. I’d heard of civil, chemical, electrical, and mechanical engineering, but computer? Yes, I was slow to come around to the newest iteration of Gutenburg’s press,(forgive my bias here, but that’s what my computer is to me), and I’m still running to catch up, but finally enjoying the journey. And this blog, as I inch along with word press’s videos and how-to guides, is my latest attempt to join the 21st century….
Just when I thought I had “arrived”, I stepped back into the classroom after a nearly 32- year hiatus from formal teaching and felt as if I’d been dropped into Mr. Peabody’s Time Machine. I had stopped teaching in the early ’80s, and never saw the latest technology in the classroom until I went back, many years later, as a substitute teacher in Syracuse, N.Y. To my amazement, every classroom had a cart delivered in the morning, containing 25-33 MacBook Pros, one for every student. Special projects warranted yet another cart of Apple IPads! I watched even the most disabled students handle these machines with absolute ease and mastery, downloading reference materials and drafts of filed papers. I was still struggling to figure out how to file things to tidy up my desktop–a nightmare of multiple images that I was told slowed down my uploads.
Well, all this is to explain the title of my blog. I started this post over a year ago and recently resurrected it from the draft section of this site. I intended this to have been my first post, as seemed logical, but I lapsed into my poetry, and thank goodness. That’s where I love to spend my time.
As for these computers, (I now have a lovely silver MacBook Pro), I’m still in a world of wonder. But, “old dog, new tricks.” It still holds true.