Friday, March 19, 2010

A Time Before Computers

I'm not a person who's nostalgic for a time before computers, and I doubt I ever will be. Our first family computer was a 1985 128K Macintosh, and boy, the things it could do! Graphics, word processing, you name it. We even had this neat printer for it that worked like a typewriter, only you'd type everything up on the computer, hit "print" when you were done, and that little printer sounded like a hundred secretaries from hell just typing away. Good stuff.

It's funny how distant the world without computers seems. I've recently been feasting myself on episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. It ended production only thirty-three years ago. In that show, they had no computers in their office, no home computers, and no video game systems. What did they do for fun? Well, they went out. They talked to each other. They played board games and busied themselves with hobbies. Mary never seemed at a loss for activity in that show, and she does it all without the help of a computer. Fascinating.

I've used a typewriter before, and believe me, it's got nothing on the ol' word processor. Sure, there's something satisfying about listening to the keys hit the page, but let me tell you, I'd much rather be able to cut and paste, use the spell check, and move text around before I print off the final product. Computers have vastly improved the life of a writer.

But I sometimes think that maybe we spend a little too much time at our computers. It's a cliche, I know, but it's one that I think merits another look. In one way, computers have brought us closer together. Look, I'm blogging, something that Mary Tyler Moore in her glory days probably couldn't even have imagined. It's a great and wonderful thing. But I like going to coffee shops and talking with real people, and seeing my family. I like spending time outdoors. I like going swimming or hiking. I love a good read, and I love spending hours down in the discount room at Sam Weller's Bookstore, looking at all the used paperbacks I can buy for only a dollar, with the smell of dust and old paper lingering in my nostrils.

So when you finish reading my blog, it might not hurt to call a friend and go for a bike ride. Cook a nice meal for your mother, or get back to work on that old project car that's sitting in your garage. Have a get-together with your family, or go running in the park. Let's use our computers to expand our lives, not to limit them.

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