Having fights with technology

Do you know a magic trick to fix anything that has decided to quit performing? The secret is unplugging it, waiting five minutes, reconnecting to its power outlet and turning it back on. Perhaps not as magic or secret as I would like you to believe, plus it doesn’t always work. Here’s the thing, it is all I know how to do to fix something.

My washing machine refused to spin off this week and I unplugged it hoping it would solve the glitch. It didn’t work, but a service call from Massetti Appliance replaced a burned-out switch. I still try the unplug routine before I call for professional help.

But my system has worked surprisingly well on many of the personal computers and other electronic gadgets I have interacted with in the last few decades. Customer support for a laptop computer I once owned said to remove the battery and hit CTRL-F10 for 10 keystrokes to discharge all the power in the machine and see if that would enable the device to turn on. Imagine my surprise when that actually solved the problem.

Looking at how technology has exploded in the past 40 years is nothing short of amazing. The stuff that became commonplace the 20 or so years before that has its own appeal. In my 20s, I had too many important things to worry about such as riding motorcycles and how my hair looked.

I don’t remember a time when my childhood home had only a radio and not a television for entertainment. Although before I was born, that was the case and I have proof. My clever mother used common postal cards and a pencil to write the birth announcements when I debuted. It looked like a missive from my brothers explaining how mom and dad went and got them a baby sister. They included my name, weight and length, signed Love Rocky and Brian. The card ended with a postscript that read, “We would have rather had a T.V.”

Isn’t that a nice memento for my baby book?

Do parents even keep baby books anymore? We each had one, the brothers were blue and mine was pink. In addition to pages for mom to record baby statistics, mount snapshots and save congratulation cards, the first half of the book explained in clinical detail a 1950s version of “What to expect, when you’re expecting.”

As a very young reader, I learned all about human reproduction at an early age. My father was shocked and dismayed while my mother the nurse was of a mind that when children began asking where babies come from, the truth, was far better than fairy tales of storks and cabbage leaves.

The wisdom of teaching sex education debate for youngsters continues to this day.

The baby books were meant to chronicle a child’s first five years, the idea being when the child started school the next book in the series titled “School Day,” is purchased. We were all one volume children.

My oldest brother Rocky’s book is all filled out nicely for the first 18 months at which point my mom had Brian. His book is mostly empty pages, neglected because with two small sons in diapers she had very little time for journaling.

When I came along five years, later her passion for writing in the baby book returned and my information is extensive. The idea of an overlooked, middle child syndrome has merit in this illustration. Everything Brian did Rocky had already accomplished. As the only girl and the baby of the family, I had my own spotlight Brian never had.

Today there are online versions of these family histories although why parents want their kids private information made public remains a mystery to me.

I had a playmate kidnapped when I was five-years-old. She came from a prominent family and was lucky to survive the experience. The idea of stranger danger was instilled in us early. My father preached don’t talk to strangers, while my mother’s philosophy was a stranger is a friend you haven’t met, yet. No confusing mixed messages in my childhood.

The first home computer we shopped for was little more than another toy we thought we could live without. Did we need an expensive machine to write letters and play games? In those days my writing was mostly bad poetry created all in longhand.

A few years later, we bought our first PC, what was known as an IBM clone. The other type of entry-level computer was an Apple Macintosh that was much more costly.

That first computer required a five-and-a-quarter-inch floppy disc with a copy of DOS (disc operating system) copied on it before the machine would boot-up. The manuals advised one never to use an original program disc as it could be damaged. As I recall one of the first commands learned was A:copy/B:. Looking back it seems the program discs were purposely made fragile as a sales ploy by 3-M and other disc manufactures. Once a person decided to buy a computer there were always more add-on accessories for sale. Does anyone still use plastic slipcovers to keep their computers dust free?

Programs and data were accessed and stored on a second floppy disc drive because the machine had no hard drive.

The next generation of PC we bought had two types of memory, the siblings RAM and ROM, Random Access Memory and Read Only Memory. For years, many people were afraid to use a computer, scared they would ruin a machine they had already spent far too much money on. Some folks still feel that way. I was never one of those people because I reasoned that the money was gone and if I hurt the interworkings I had a magic warranty that would put it to rights.

The smart phone in my pocket is more powerful and versatile than any of those early models dared dream.

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Have a great weekend.

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Readers may contact Tami Jo Nix by emailing tamijonix@gmail.com or following @TamiJoNix on Twitter.