My Computer Is from Jupiter


I don’t know why, but there seems to come a time when you go from embracing technology as a child to running in fear of it as an adult. Let’s face it, technology is becoming smarter and quicker, and we are becoming – well, you know.

As I reflect back, I realize that the technology that molded my childhood came in dribs and drabs. It came so slowly down the pipeline that we had time to break an item and replace it with the same model. Children and parents were able to happily navigate technology together. There were fewer buttons to push, fewer choices to make, and fewer adults being left behind in the dust. I remember my father bringing home a cassette recorder – yes, this was considered technology – and showing us how to use it. We were so excited. We sang and recorded “Happy Birthday” to it as we welcomed it into our home.

My next technological advancement came a few years later, when my father purchased Texas Instruments scientific solar calculators for me and my siblings. I used mine for a number of years until it needed to be replaced, or so I thought. When I told my father I needed a new calculator, he asked me if I tried changing the batteries. I sheepishly responded, “What batteries?” I had been so confident that it ran only on solar power that I actually threw it out. My father was less than thrilled when he had to buy me a new one.

My parents usually took their time when it came to new advancements. For example, they didn’t purchase a microwave (again, a new technology) until the price had gone way down. This meant we were still popping popcorn the old fashioned way, in a pot, using actual kernels. It was really quite fun. I didn’t even know microwave popcorn existed until I was in my twenties. You may laugh, but my children don’t even know it’s possible to pop popcorn in a pot!

All of this changed with the proliferation of computers. I was fortunate to be in college when the transition from typewriter (have your kids look up the word) to computers happened. We learned on a program called MacWrite, which just shows you how long ago this was. Somewhere along the line, I conditioned myself, due to my own impressive mistakes, to resist learning more. It all started when I changed the screen saver on the computer that I use at work. This might seem like something that shouldn’t even require mention. However, in this case, I changed the “unchangeable” screen saver of the BCPS (Baltimore County public school system). Trust me, even the tech guys were baffled by my abilities.

Despite this, I persevered and continued to learn new computer skills and even new programs. Treading carefully over the next few years, I was able to successfully accomplish what needed to be done. That has all come to an abrupt and emotional end. Last year, a memo was issued stating that every high school teacher would be assigned a “device.” First of all, I had no idea what they were talking about so I asked my coworker. Her response was, “Oh, they mean a tablet.” So far, I’m still in the dark here. Not wanting to let on that I’m picturing aspirin, which I would’ve actually appreciated, I start playing 20 questions.

“How big is it?” I ask.

“Oh,” she says, “about as big as a piece of paper.”

At least now I realize we’re not talking about medication. Eventually, I did figure out that we were talking computers.

The first thing they did after distributing the device to everyone was show us how to turn it on. Do you want to know why? Because there is a teeny, tiny little “bump” on the side, which you have to pull forward. What were they thinking? I mean it’s not hard, but having this as our first instructional moment made me more than a little nervous. Apparently my dark premonitions were correct. When we finished our first training session, we were encouraged to explore our computers. Well this is where curiosity got the best of me. Curiosity can be your best friend, or it can kill the proverbial cat. Unfortunately, I have left a lot of cats (and computers) in my wake.

After returning to my classroom and bravely taking the “device” out of its fancy case, I proceeded to push some of the buttons. Within 30 seconds, my screen went completely dark. No amount of enthusiasm I could muster as I frantically pushed the buttons could make it come back to life. Realizing I was of absolutely no use to myself, I stepped into the hallway in hopes of finding anyone. Lo and behold, the computer science teacher walked by. My relief was short lived, however, when he said, “I really don’t know how you could do that; better call the tech guy.”

Things did get better for a while. Over the summer, I had to take an online course. Despite our rocky start, my device and I established a good working relationship. We took some trips together to the library, experimented with a few new programs and generally came to an agreement that worked for both of us. Unfortunately, this must have gotten back to my desktop computer at work.

On the first day of the new school year, I attempted to log onto my desktop only to receive this message: “The security database on the server does not have a computer account for this workstation trust relationship.” (You can’t make this stuff up). Now, I know we hadn’t seen each other for a few months, but this was ridiculous. Whatever happened to “absence makes the heart grow fonder?” I figured I must be reading this wrong, so I called the tech guy, who’s actually the tech-lady. She looked at it and said, “Sorry, it won’t give you a handshake.” (Ask your children what that means because, frankly, I had no idea.) As it turns out, a relationship that I didn’t even know I was having was over. I had no words to express my chagrin.

As I mused over this unfortunate turn of events, I reminded myself of a book that was written a few years ago. It was entitled, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.” This is essentially a nice way of saying, although men and women assume they share a common language, reality begs to differ. I decided if I could write the sequel to this, it would be called, “My Computer is from Jupiter, and I Want My Typewriter Back”!


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