I am not very computer literate. I know how to use one to surf the Internet, to shop, to work, but ask me how they work, what makes it run, I can't tell you. I wasn't sure what was bigger, a megabyte or a gigabyte. What are those? I'm not sure, other than the larger the number, the more storage you have.
My brother made fun of me a couple weeks ago because I gave him some pictures from a family gathering on a CD instead of a thumb drive. I guess I'm behind the times there.
I have very vague memories of our family's first computer. I don't know what kind it was, but I remember where it was. And it was big, didn't work with a mouse and had to be programmed. Programming, at least to me, meant something like entering separate commands on separate lines.
When I took typing in high school (a very practical class), it was on what was then a fancy typewriter, the kind where you could type two lines into memory before printing them out on the piece of paper. We still have a typewriter at our office, but I think it's used more to collect dust than anything else.
When I started working 18 years ago, the fax machine was the most modern piece of equipment we had. It made our jobs so much easier. We could get information almost instantly. Before that, it was relying on snail mail or hand delivery, which were slower and more at someone else's pleasure and not as reliable. Now we have e-mail.
To make the paper, we still waxed pieces of paper and pasted them on the boards. Ads were printed out one by one, same with stories. If a story was too short or too long, lines were moved individually to try and fill out the space or shorten it to fit. That left a lot of room for mistakes.
A few years later, the pages were printed out in three big pieces, 11-by-17, much like on the pages we use as proofs today. Those larger pieces were still waxed and pasted up, but there was no more line by line cutting – that could be done on the computer. Amazing. Today, it's all electronic.
Kind of ironic given the business we're in, but to make a newspaper today, we don't ever have to see the finished product on paper until it has rolled off the press. Heck, we don't ever have to see the printed version, we can just fire up our computers and read online. Not me, though, I still like to hold a newspaper in my hands.
I never used to be able to work from home. Now, with the Internet and VPN connection, I have access to everything I would at the office. And the system is, quite possibly, a little faster at home. (It still doesn't replace the face-to-face communication with colleagues, but that's a conversation for a different day.)
Now all that computer technology has trickled down to our phones, which are really just computers that have phone capability. (I'm pretty sure you can talk over a real computer, too, but I have no idea how to go about doing that.)
Until work provided one for me, I didn't have a fancy phone. The one I still have for personal use only has phone calls and text messaging. I could get the Internet on it, but it's way too difficult.
I used to wonder what I'd do without a fax machine at work, now it's an inconvenience when someone uses one instead of transmitting by e-mail. Now, I can't imagine working without a smartphone, although it doesn't seem as impossible as not having e-mail.
My 2-year-old can operate my Kindle and my husband's iPad to find the TV shows or games she wants. She swipes her finger across the screen to turn it on then touches the app she wants – whether it's for PBS kids shows or the matching game.
My 4-year-old has a Leapster and Leappad that are just computers disguised as games.
My kids may know as much about technology as I do. And they're just toddlers. They're not going to know what it was like to change the TV channel by hand or to program a computer or to dial a rotary phone.
My kids are growing up in a different world than I did, but I guess that's the case for every generation.
If those advances have been made in my lifetime, what is there to come? What kinds of things will my kids be using that I may never be able to adapt to? I'm looking forward to finding out.