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"In My Day "

by Rima Magee

 

 Back in the dark ages of the 20th Century, circa 1982, I was working in New York for a major publishing company. I wrote a few articles for some if its magazines, but my salaried job was with the Office Services Department. The reason is now dim, but found myself appointed as a purchasing agent for the far-flung branch offices across the country. They were beginning to get computerized and Apple computers were the only personal computers then widely available. To learn about the equipment, I persuaded the local Apple distributor to loan me a setup I could take home for a few days. The manuals were incomprehensible, but I learned by trial and error, and fell in love! And bought one.

To nurture my adoration, and find out what the manuals were talking about, I joined an Apple users group and naturally fell into publishing its newsletter. I wrote a monthly column, "Observations at Midnight." As a point of nostalgia, and to show how far we have come, I offer one of these columns here:

"The amount of literature that crosses my desk daily would founder the most avid speed reader. Magazines for and about the office, for and about purchasing, and the like. Not the least of this mass of paper is dealt by the American Management Association inviting me to seminars involving management problems. And what is the favorite bugaboo of our sophisticated management? "

Computerphobia.

"Everyone is scared to death of the computer. The middle management person fears that the ease of data entry will cause Personnel to remove his/her secretary. The typing pool fear they will become cyborg slaves, hooked into machines that will also damage their fertility with the green glare from the CRTs. (Monitors were called Cathode Ray Tubes, then.)

"The hardware companies don't make it any easier when they advertise, so cutely, that an 8-year-old can teach his parent how to operate his new Whatsis - including Apple Computer!

"Some of the current over-30 geniuses who, as under-30s used to sneer at over-30s, are denigrating the versatility and adaptability of the over-40s - and the worst part of this scenario is that the over-40s gibberishly endorse this nonsense.

"I was born into the electronic age about the time that crystal sets astounded the world with their mystery (which puts me definitely into the over-40 category). My father, refusing to be astounded, tackled the super heterodyne circuit and stole all my mother's baking tins for chassis construction. By the time WWII came along, I knew all of the buzzwords and how to trace a circuit. So, I spent the war testing aviation radios.

"Then came television. Horrors! It was time for fear again. We would all become bleary-eyed zombies, fraught with sterility from cathode ray tubes. Somehow, we managed to survive and TV has become ho-hum!

"I approached my first CRT with a bit of awe, having heard that I was over the age limit for understanding computers. After about an hour of fiddling with commands and text formats, my reaction was — 'you mean that's all there is to it?'

"After all it's only another dumb machine that is no more intelligent than its operator. Of course if the operator is dumb as well, then it does become a problem!"

##

A few years ago, I abandoned my Apple IIe when Apple stopped supporting it and concentrated on the Mac. I bought a simple PC. Today, I am surrounded by highly upgraded and complicated useful and user-friendly equipment. The manuals are still incomprehensible, going into detail about how to plug the equipment into the wall and where to turn it on. Then they proceed to "instructions" in techno babble that only the technicians trained in that particular piece of equipment can understand. But you all know that drill.

I really don't care why and how they do what they do, I just understand what they do and we live together in harmony. Very few homes and offices can operate without computers and the Internet. And every secretary — pardon me, administrative assistant — demands his/her own computerized workstation.

Has it been only 20 years?


Rima was a writer, it seems, all of her life first getting paid for her work when employed as a newspaper reporter in Rome, NY and Houston, TX. Freelancing after the war, she met David Westheimer when he was editor of the Houston Post Sunday Magazine and who bought several of Rima's stories. Her subsequent experience was as editor/writer of a couple of house organs and then as an ad agency copywriter in Houston and Hollywood.

Rima won a prize for her poem, Reflection, in the Margaret Reed Contest for Traditional Verse. The poems were published in an anthology entitled Sailing In the Mist of Time, selling on Amazon.

Rima had an active pilot's license at the time of her death. Flying, a musical play inspired by Rima's poetry, is to presented at the Huntington Beach Playhouse in November, 2007

©2002 Rima Magee for SeniorWomenWeb
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