Her Ladyship

Notes from the gutter.

Monday, August 01, 2005

What is this floppy you speak of?

Working on a project today, I had need for a file that I'd last used a few years ago. The only place I could remember seeing it was on a floppy disk stowed carelessly in the bottom of my unmentionables drawer (you know, the place where you keep the aspirin, cough drops, and various other medical sundries in order to take care of any contingency that would arise at the office). I dutifully dug it out, leaned over to insert it in my hard-drive...and realized that I had no freakin clue where to put it. In the eleven+ months that I've had this hard-drive, I've never had to use a floppy. I searched all around the equipment and even consulted with a co-worker but no luck. Could not find it. I ended up having to get a co-worker to open the disk up for me, and, 20 minutes later, discovered that the file I wanted wasn't even on there. Dammit.

Absolutely nothing original in what I'm about to say, but it amazes me how much things have changed. There was a time when everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, was saved on a floppy and then backed up on my hard-drive. There was a time when a floppy meant one of those dinner plate-sized discs (my parents still have an Apple IIE that works and uses those. I've threatened my dad with severe harm if he ever gets rid of that museum piece). There was a time when, if you wanted to use Microsoft, you had to go through a whole song and dance routine with C:: and dear god I don't even want to think about it. It was just really really painful and counterintuitive.

When I went to college, my friends and I had two options for how we wanted to write our papers - okay, three. There was, of course, the old-school typewriter, but even that was fading out. The more technologically savvy of us couldn't decide between a word processor (how quaint!) and an actual computer. I know people who got a word processor and used that for most of college. I waited until my second year, at which point I got an Apple powerbook. That thing would break your toe if dropped on it - it was quite the clunker - but it got me through all of undergrad, plus grad school, plus surviving transportation abroad and that wacky European electrical current. I turned it over to my dad reluctantly upon graduation so that he could play games on it. Yes, I know they make actual game consoles that are a lot faster and lighter than a powerbook, but he requested it, so who was I to deny him that pleasure?

Thinking back even further takes me to the Apple IIE's dot matrix printer that would always give me away when I procrastinated in high school and tell my mom's alert ears that I'd stayed up far too late and was trying to quietly print a paper at 3am. My mom fought that computer for years but in the end, they came to an uneasy detente and up to a few years ago, even when my dad had gotten a much better computer that was easier to use, still insisted on the Apple IIE. Now that she's retired, she assiduously avoids all things electric and I have learned that when I send emails to the family I have to include instructions "Print for mom," because otherwise she won't see them.

When I was in 5th grade, the be-all and end-all entertainment in our classroom was the computer game "Oregon Trail." Never mind that it was an educational game where you nearly always died of dysentery half-way across the United States - it was a (semi-)interactive computer game, something few of us had experienced, and its rarity made it that much cooler in our eyes.

But my very first memory of a computer was in the third grade. Someone wheeled a ginormous contraption into our classroom and they asked if anyone knew what it was. Like three kids raised their hands, and only one of them knew how to use one. We watched with awe as one of our own made the blue screen come to life.

Then again, given how often I've stood aside with my thumbs up my ass and waited for someone to awaken the slumbering beast at my desk, I grudgingly have to admit that some things haven't changed.


  • At 3:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    now you can't live without one. hum, sounds like a bad deal all around. maybe i shouldn't encourage the collection of mp3's.


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