Gretchen L. Kelly, Author

Where Were You When the World Was Getting Smarter?

Share this post:

This week’s Remember the Time blog hop is “I remember where I was when….”

“Hard wired to concieve, so much we’d have to stow it.  Even needs have needs, tiny giants made of tinier giants, Don’t wear eyelids so I don’t miss the last laugh of this show (the dashboard melted but we still have the radio)”

-Modest Mouse, Dashboard

It was 1992, I was a sophomore in college.  I spent a lot of time in the library.  I would go there to do research, to study.  I loved all the quiet places you could hide.  Desks tucked in between rows of books.  Endless shelves filled with endless knowledge.  Even though I found myself supremely frustrated at times – all of the tables and desks would be occupied, the one book you needed would be checked out- it was still my refuge.  The computer lab was quite different.  That was a place that I despised.  I hated the harsh fluorescent lights, the rows of humming computer monitors, the room full of people who were obviously way smarter than me.

Luckily I didn’t have to venture in to that cold, foreign place often.  I had a word-processor that I was able to get by with.  Most of my needs were met by this little gem.  Basically it was a glorified electronic typewriter, but as an English major, I didn’t need much more.

She was a beauty...
She was a beauty

Every once in a while I would have to suck up my pride and my swallow my fears.  I would run out of ink and not have enough money to buy more.  Or some sadistic professor would come up with an assignment that needed more than a word processor could handle.  On these occasions I would try to tag along with a friend or recruit someone to go with me.  Yes, sad.  But I would rather ask a friend how to turn on the computer than ask the lab assistant.  I preferred to keep my level of ignorance to a close circle of friends.  DOS commands confused me and made my stomach twist in to knots.  I was convinced that I was going to hit the wrong button and blow up a computer.  Then I would be known around campus as that girl that broke the computer lab.

Still gives me chills...
Still gives me chills…

I really didn’t bother to put in the time to learn how to work a computer.  I figured that as a writer and/or English teacher I wouldn’t ever need to touch a computer.  Only engineers and technology types would really need to master these confusing beasts.  Your brain had to be wired a certain way to grasp codes and prompts and all the necessary details to be fully functional on a computer.  All I had to do was fake it through the few assignments that popped up occasionally, graduate college, and I would never have to use a computer again.  Just like algebra.

One day in Spanish, our professor sent us down to the computer lab.  He was going to have one of the students show us a great new tool that we could use for research.  I groaned.  I really didn’t see the need.  Any research that I couldn’t find in a book or encyclopedia I could find on microfiche.

Remember microfiche???
Remember microfiche???

I followed the class, yawning and detached.  My mind wandered as the student held court in front of a computer.  He was animated as he tried to explain this new “program” to us.  I knew he was one of those technology types so I didn’t really pay attention.  Of course he’s excited, he’s in his element talking about his passion.  But then I started to notice the other students leaning in.  They started peppering him with questions.  They seemed intrigued.  They seemed interested.  I tuned in to what they were asking, what the student was explaining.  It was confusing and didn’t make a lot of sense.  The world, via computers, was connected by a vast web of…  I don’t really know what.  What he was trying to explain seemed incomprehensible.  Like infinity or what is beyond our solar system.  I knew that this was something big.  I knew that this was something that we would all learn more about.  I knew that my plans of never touching a computer again were probably just a pipe dream.  That computer lab in the English building, that is where I was when I learned about the internet.  That is the moment that I knew the world just got a lot smarter.

Still boggles the mind...
Still boggles the mind…

Looking back on those years, it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come.  My first job out of college I had to master Power Point and Excel, programs my kids have since learned in elementary school.  My hatred of computers has turned into an all out love affair.  I’m still not the most technically proficient, but who among us could imagine our lives with out our computers or smart phones?  Who could imagine life with out the World Wide Web?  Something that I had barely heard of only 20 years ago (dear lord) is so integral to our everyday lives now.  The very thing I despised and didn’t understand is the vehicle for something that I do that I love, that gives me so much happiness.  I still get frustrated. I’m still trying to figure out how to add side bars and widgets, but I know I’ll figure it out.  So, I’m not afraid to admit that I was wrong.  Computers are here to stay.  They have become more user friendly to be sure, but I was wrong in my dismissal of them.  I was wrong to think that I wouldn’t have a need for them.  I was ignorant as to all they could do.  Computers were not just some academic requirement that served no practical purpose.  Unlike Algebra…  I was right about that.

4 Responses

  1. I remember as a freshman in college (1995) being assigned an e-mail address and wondering what I would do with it–I didn’t know anyone else who had an address to message. Within a year it seemed everyone had an e-mail address. I, like you, was afraid of the computer lab…I was just certain I was going to break something. I thought computers were for the “smart” folks, like my mechanical-engineering major roomie. As much as I love computers now and as proficient as I am, I think back to then and what a shame it is I didn’t have more confidence in myself.

  2. So we’ve basically come a long way, right? I’m glad to hear I wasn’t the only one who felt completely intimidated by computers… and it really doesn’t seem like that long ago… until I do the math!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles