ELECTRONIC MEMORIES

THE OLD DAYS


After contemplating operating systems at length, I started rethinking the whole thing and I began to wonder if operating systems will be relevant a couple of years from now. Because everything is changing.

Change is hardly new to the world of computers and technology. Change is what drives the industry. Change is how come you need to buy new software, new hardware, new operating systems. Change can make things work better, but it’s not unusual to discover that your “upgrade” is a downgrade because what used to work no longer does. You pays your money, you takes your chances.

I grew to adulthood in a pre-computer society. I started working before cable TV, when encyclopedias were huge heavy sets of books and a computer was gigantic and needed a whole building for itself. It ran on punch cards and used special languages — COBOL and FORTRAN. Even decades later, personal computers were one step removed from a doorstop. Floppy disks were 5-1/2 inches across and flopped.

Those early machines (personal units, not mainframes) — I hesitate to call them computers — didn’t do much. They didn’t have hard drives. There was no software and no user-friendly interface. I don’t think the concept existed. No WYSIWYG. What you saw was a black screen with lurid green letters that made you feel like you were going blind after an hour or two.

Then … everything changed.

APPLE, WINDOWS, ANDROID AND SO MUCH MORE


First there was Apple and then Windows. Windows didn’t work very well at first, but soon enough, it got better. And then better again.

There were different players and more operating systems in the beginning. Wang and DEC plus a crazy quilt of dedicated word processors and computers made by Commodore, Atari and many others. For a while, I had an Amstrad, a European machine that was almost a computer, kind an intelligent typewriter with a screen that spit out paper.

This was the Amstrad!

Then, everything changed again. Computers started to really do stuff. It was magic!

I worked on this machine in Israel using the first word processing tool, WordStar.

For a while, it seemed like everything changed every day. One day, there was a thing called the Internet. I had to buy and install Netscape to access it. Once connected, there wasn’t much going on, but it was cool to just roam around and see what there was to see.

You could send electronic mail — email — if you had a friends with computers. You sent them messages over old copper telephone wires and everything happened in slow motion.

My first personal computer.

To get on the Internet , you turned on the computer and the modem. Went to the kitchen. Prepared dinner. Cooked dinner. Served dinner. Ate dinner. Cleaned up. By the time you got back, you might have managed to connect. Or not.

My first PC. I think everyone had one of these at some point!

Then suddenly AOL popped up and I got a really fast modem, a whopping 2400 BPS! Imagine that. I worked in California from my home office in Boston. Cool! Telecommuting was the cat’s pajamas.

By the time my granddaughter was born in 1996, everybody had a computer or two. In her world, computers have always been fast and the Internet has always been the world’s biggest shopping mall.

My old 486 ran for 10 years. It wasn’t fast, but it was durable.

At age three, she could run basic applications. Computers are to her as electricity is to me. It isn’t something you think about. It has always been there. I’m sure she can’t imagine a world without it — or WiFi, cable, and electronic cameras. Even for me, it’s not easy to remember. My brain gets stuck in the early 1980s when I realized that computers were definitely going to be my thing. I would never go back.

Memories of days of yore … but not halcyon I fear,

During the 1990s, the rate of change slowed for a while. We drew a collective breath and didn’t have to buy new computers for a few years. High speed connections arrived, though most home users didn’t have it immediately.  Nonetheless, everything kept getting faster. Soon, no one could remember getting on the Internet using an old, copper telephone line. If you did remember it, it made your brain hurt.

Commodore 64 – the most popular computer ever produced.  More than 30 million of them sold.  I had one of these, too. Everybody had one, if they were “into” computers.

AND NOW


Every couple of years, there is a new generation of processors. Bigger, faster hard drives. Amazing super high-definition monitors and speaker systems to knock your socks off. Just when you think your socks have been knocked as far off as socks can go, there’s another “fix” and your super fast computer is a slow-poke compared to the latest and greatest. I should know. I’m using one of them.

Meanwhile, the highway of information devolved into a chat room with ranting … and a universal shopping mall. The Internet is a world.

I played bridge in real-time with a partner who lived on an island off the Pacific coast. Computers aren’t only computers, either. We have them everywhere. They are part of our cameras, our bed, our toaster oven. Our television. The car. Smartphones. GPS units. Kindles and tablets. The little computers probably make “things” run better, but when they stop working? They are exorbitantly expensive to fix.

Sometimes, you can’t get in or out of your car because everything is locked tight. That little computer blew again.

ABOUT THE CLOUD


Same old Internet, but “cloud” is the “new” word for stuff stored on external servers.

We’re going back to where we began, to using stripped down computers with no hard drives. Instead, everything is stored on someone else’s computer — out there. In the “cloud.” Our data might be anywhere. We have no way of knowing where it lives. Am I the only one who finds this unnerving?

I can see advantages. When you eliminate memory sucking operating systems and cumbersome installed applications, your computer will run faster. Start-up is instant. You don’t have to maintain and upgrade expensive applications and volumes of data. You don’t need ever bigger hard drives, more memory, and video RAM. You wind up with faster computers that are less expensive and easier to maintain. It’s a win-win, right? Or is it?

SO — YOU HAVE FAITH IN YOUR INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER?


If your cable company has a bad day or the servers on which you store your critical data go down — even for a short while — you have nothing. As long as everything works like it’s supposed to, it’s hunky dory, but Murphy hasn’t left the building yet.

WHAT CAN GO WRONG, STILL GOES WRONG


Maybe it’s my age showing, but I would prefer to have data on hard drives that I control. That I own.

The idea of entrusting everything —  from my photographs to the manuscript of my book — to an unknown server somewhere in the world scares me. What if the building in which the server storing my stuff burns down? Gets hit by a terrorist attack? Taken down by hackers? You have no way of knowing what country your data is in, how stable its government is, or how good an infrastructure it maintains. You financial data could be in Pakistan, Indonesia, or Kuala Lampur. Or next door.

Is there a compromise possible? Because when I think about entrusting everything to a cloud, I twitch. How many times have you been unable to access a web page because servers are out? What if you need a critical piece of data from a server when it’s offline?

My bank was hacked. BOA had to send me a new bank card. Land’s End and Adobe have been hacked. More than once. I’ve had to redo several accounts because they’d been compromised. Lots of other places over the years, places that were supposedly “unhackable” have gone down.

I know I am hackable. Luckily, I don’t have anything worth hacking.

If your ISP is down, you’re out of business. If you think your cable company has you by the throat now, how much worse will it be if everything you need to run your life and business is dependent on their services? If that doesn’t give you the cold sweats, nothing will. If you put too many eggs in the basket and the basket falls — and it will — eggs break. In which case you don’t have an omelet, just a sloppy mess of busted eggs and slimy shells.

You can’t totally avoid the cloud these days. I keep my audiobooks and eBooks on Amazon, and my email on Gmail because there’s no way on earth I could store all of that, even on this big computer. But my personal stuff? Pictures, documents, and other important material? It lives here, at home. On personal, external hard drives.

I learned the hard way to perform regular backups. I don’t do them as often as I should, but I do them regularly. If you don’t, think about it. It’s a little late when you’ve already lost all your stuff.

43 thoughts on “ELECTRONIC MEMORIES

  1. Great post! David’s first computer was a Vic20 and later he graduated to a Commodore 64. I still have them plus tape drives and assorted bits and pieces in the shed. He liked using them for fun long after Windows came into our lives. I’m hoping when the time comes I will be able to rehome them with another enthusiast.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. In the 70s…
    My first “computer” was a cardboard box with the letters of the alphabet written on and a little bulb I could switch on and off. It didn’t do much but it was awesome! Because nobody outside of multinationals would ever own their own computer.

    Fast forward to last week…
    My router went screwy and I couldn’t even switch my lights on and off 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It annoys me. I’m a techy and I feel much of the gadgets we want is just a reinvention of the old stuff (from the old generation) for the new generation. I remember buying my very first Nokia Mobile Phone Nokia 6110. It had a battery, which charged once, would last A WEEK. Now, you have a Smart Mobile Phone and you’d be lucky to get a day of use from a single charge. You may argue, well you use your phone more now then the Nokia days, but back then, I use to talk over the phone much more then than now, and talking killed your battery. So the young generation won’t have experienced that, I did, and that’s why I think the hood is being pulled over our eyes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’ll never get an argument from ME. I hate the little phones.

      We were very early cell phone users and my husband’s big clunky phone — like the field phones the AT&T workers still use when they are in the middle of nowhere — was not something you could put in a pocket. It weighed like a small brick, but it ALWAYS had a signal and it lasted for days on a charge. Even the smaller ones that followed it, although they lost the signal and the decent sound quality, still had batteries. My current phone has crappy sound and loses the signal if you move a few inches from where you made the call. It’s got — assuming I use it at all — maximum 4 or 5 hours in the battery.

      We keep it in case we are driving and need an emergency call for help, but otherwise, I don’t use it. Total waste of money.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m with you there on the “cloud” business. I use an external hard drive instead. What’s the old saying – possession is 9/10 of the law?
    Leslie

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  5. My family did not own a personal computer until 2002, which makes my still refusing to join the smartphone revolution pale by comparison. I was on the internet in 2000 though thanks to a internet through TV system the cable company supported. My aversion to going out and getting the next big thing makes me very incompatible with technology. Firefox has just warned me it will no longer be making updates for Vista, which is the OS for both my 8 year old desktop and laptop. Oh well….

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    • I like technology. The first time I put my hands on a computer … I knew. I don’t buy new stuff as often as many other people, probably because I can’t afford it … but also, because I hate changing computers. It’s a terrible hassle. If I had found a computer that would do what I want, I’d have stayed with it too. But I use some heavy duty software and older computers won’t run it.

      As for “smart” phones, they don’t work better than dumb phones. Actually, I don’t think they work as WELL as the old ones, assuming that actually making PHONE CALLS is why you have it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ahh the cassette tape drive – i remember it well and still have it on my Amstrad 64, never bought the upgrade external hard drive though?

    I steadfastly refuse to trust the cloud (unless you count gmail which is a backup to my ISP service e-mail and i keep all my photos and email, everything in fact, on my 500 Gb hard drive. Unless you are saving full length video i don’t see how anyone can need more than a Terabyte which is what most pc’s drives have now unless they are solid state. Backups of my personal stuff i can store on thumb drives (64 Gb for $20!) or my 500 Gb portable.

    Here in Aus i still rely upon copper phone lines for internet access but at ADSL2 speeds. We are rolling out optical fibre to a node (not direct to the home) at the moment at huge National cost but so far fewer than 20% of households are able to be connected.

    Microsoft has managed to find yet another way to P*** me off and i will be posting about it later today. Naturally it concerns Updates.

    Thanks for the wander down memory lane – we have much in common 😉

    love.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I remember taking a computer course with cards. 🙂 I also had one of those Mac SEs, and it worked quite well even though it sure had a small screen which I’d never be able to see it today. 🙂 I also remember the first job I had where there was a computer and they had index cards with steps to follow to do something. It drove me crazy that they wouldn’t explain how it worked just gave me those steps to follow. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post, Marilyn! Our first computer was a Commodore 64. However, at work, I fell in love with a Mac when I was designing our company newsletter (before Microsoft was up to speed with Windows. We’ve had several computers over the years, but I’ve had my Acer Aspire laptop for five years now, using Windows 7 and I’m hoping it will last me another five. I’m not into having the latest tech, but I sure wouldn’t want to live without it. You, on the other hand, are always right on top of it all. If it wasn’t for you and your post a couple of years ago about ROKU, Dan and I would still be living in the dark ages when it came to what we could do with our TV. KUDOS on keeping these two Boomers in the loop… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, I’m about two years slower than most people, but I like my computers to last a while by which I mean at least five years. the last one didn’t, but I got unlucky with the operating system changes. My previous computer lasted seven years and my desk top close to ten. The thing is, though. I buy very good computers, so they last longer. That’s the idea, anyway. I don’t like changing computers. It’s always a huge hassle and it takes weeks before everything works like it should … and some things NEVER work they way they should, no matter how hard you try.

      If you are lucky, your Windows 7 computer will last you a long time. Microsoft has promised to continue to support Win7 for at least another three years and probably will continue for years after that.

      My problem is photographs. I never had a computer that didn’t crash using Photoshop. Finally, I have one that doesn’t. i threw in the towel and got something I figured was going to work. It works. I just need it to work forever because I can’t imagine coming up with the money to buy another one. Probably ever.

      Roku is still the best of WiFi connectors and even now, the price is very modest compared to all the other products … and it works MUCH better. Most people seem to have a “smart TV” now. We have a TV, but it’s isn’t smart. We don’t have any smart things. Our telephone is supposed to be smart, but you couldn’t prove it by me because mostly, it sits in my bag on OFF. If there’s an emergency, it’s there, but otherwise, I don’t know what people see in them. I also don’t have a big tablet, just a Kindle for reading. An older one which i’m hanging onto as long as I can. I think it’s a better machine than the new ones.

      I think I’m pretty smart about what works for me, but I don’t worry about the latest stuff because I don’t see where it would make my life better. The electronic things that unlock the doors and open the window and stuff like that? What in the world would it do for me? Or you? And are we so lazy we need an electronic device to open the blinds in the morning?

      Possibly the highest tech thing in the house is Garry’s caption phone. Part of the disabilities bill pays for telephones for the deaf. Amazing! it’s the one and only time any program has worked for Garry. They always act as if being deaf isn’t really “disabled.”

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  9. P.S. Forgot to mention that I back up all of my personal files to disc regularly, have a Seagate backup too. Also, when I’m working on a book, I email myself the “work in progress” as attachments as I’m working and save ALL of the copies, even as I’m editing. And, that’s besides saving them to disc. Happy writing, reading and saving files! 🙂

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