Green Words on a Black Screen

I used to pester my parents for hours about what life was like when they were kids…. when food was kept cold by blocks of ice, and TV sets only functioned after 4 pm.  No microwaves, no Walkman’s, no VCRs.  You used to actually have to speak to an operator to place a phone call!  It all seemed so strange and fascinating.  My children find the same fascination.   I guess that everyone is suprised at how fast technology develops, how these things have the ability to change our lives in both imperceptible, as well as life altering ways.    I just figured that I’d be knitting booties in a rocking chair before I was able to tell stories of “the way it was when I was young.”

I guess you could call me reluctant member of the computer generation.  I’m not really one for technology.  When I call Tech Support, I imagine that the helpful Indian folks who take my call are secretly snickering behind my back at my lack of basic knowledge.  I grew up with computers, I really did!  In the 4th grade,  we were required to “write programs.”  Silly little messes of numbers and letters that would produce a picture of a snowman on the screen if you did everything just right.  All the teachers were so pleased, and told us that when we were adults, this would come in handy when we went to look for a job.  These were computer skills!  Our first family computer ran on cassette tapes…. really!  I remember when you had to preface each line with a “prompt” and such.  DOS ?  

This morning my little ones sat in rapt attention as I described our old-style computer monitors.  Just a black screen with green letters on it.  “Pictures” were composed of x’s and o’s.  Occassionally you’d hear a “beep” if you pressed the wrong key, and that was about it.  We were a little bit afraid of computers then.  I think I still have a deeply repressed fear that somehow the device will explode if a certain combination of keys are pressed simulaneously.  I saw the movie “War Games” at age 10, and though I knew that it was a complete fiction, a deep seed was planted in the recesses of my mind.  Some high school kid could accidentally start a nuclear war with the Soviet Union just by pressing a couple of buttons. 

….And my children asked me, “What’s the Soviet Union?”  “What’s a nuclear war?”   


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