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Schukov: My first computer — and my last

Computer upgrades are part of a generational tech gap: Schukov.

I was recently cleaning out my attic (after I remembered I had one) and unearthed my very first word processor — a user hostile, ergonomically bankrupt, beta-test failing, algorithmically ailing contraption. (It didn’t like me either.)

Despite a shaky honeymoon, the old UNIVAC (Universal Automatic Computer) and I had an understanding: “You don’t make word-processing hard on me and I won’t ask you to print more than three pages at a time.” (We both lied through our teeth.)

At the time, the scrap dealer who sold me the system from hell for $100 said, “I’d give it to you for free but you wouldn’t appreciate it.” (In those days, everyone lied.) Although it may not have had (m)any viruses or worms, it was definitely flea-bitten. It had a limited data base which needed regular greasing and its neural network accommodated only four logic gates: AND, OR and WHAT? (I don’t count well.)

The print display was based on a system called IYDLIGBTYT (If you don’t like it go back to your typewriter.) It offered a selection of two font: Cro-Magnon and Old Testament, neither of which could be justified so letters leapt off the page like lemmings. I could only use the accompanying (pull start) diesel-powered printer during the day because a local by-law forbade the operation of 200 decibel machinery after 6 p.m. Plus you had to keep all of the windows open. (There was no Windows in that day.)

Old UNI had a modem that could only be hooked up to a rotary phone. It came with a pointing device that was a wooden stick and an electrical surge protector that was a rubber blanket. And a real mouse lived inside it.

Fed up one day, I announced to the family “We’re just going to have to spring for a much more powerful PC with vector tracing, voice recognition, virtual reality vaporware and 200 megs of dim and, oh yeah, we need more than one i/o. (I had no idea what I was talking about. I heard it somewhere. The only i/o I could refer to was in the song Old MacDonald Had a Farm. (e/i/e/i/o) So, finding no more deals at the scrap yard, I bought a whole new system from a reputable store manned by a pre-pubescent geek with more tape on the nose bridge of his glasses than I had on my hockey stick.

My newest computer is so smart, it took itself out of the box when we got home. I am convinced modern computers have hidden artificial intelligence. Mine sniggers when I sign in. It’s bored. I’m afraid to push the HELP button because I may never get out of the explanation. People who can’t handle rejection should not own modern computers.

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