Several years ago, I spent time helping other folks learn how to use and enjoy their computers. Most of the folks were older than younger, most but not all women. They learned well, but there was always more to learn. At some point almost every one of my clients asked, How did you learn all of this techy stuff? Upon reflection, the answer was easy: when I bought my little Apple II in 1979, learning to run it was much like it must have been to learn to drive a Model T Ford. Pretty darn easy. By the time I was helping folks, the computer, even an Apple, was more like learning to fly a 747.
How wonderfully much the computer had progressed! My Apple II ran programs that lived on cassette tapes, accessed through a standard cassette player—a process of mebbe it'll load, mebbe it won't; a few weeks later the first disk drives arrived. Then you loaded a floppy disk into the drive and, zing, the program it held ran right away. One program per floppy disk. To do something else, you had to quit that program and insert a different floppy disk for what you wanted to do next.
Now, everything resides either in the computer (747 et al.) on your hard drive or somewhere in cyberspace ready to show up on your screen at a moment's notice. Of course it's harder to learn!!!
|Nicknamed Dancing with the Stars, |
this pastel is my interpretation of a part of the
Rho Ophiuchi nebula in the constellation Ophiuchus
But our computers today, so powerful, lack something that old Apple II (all 48 kilobytes of it) had: The ability to program your computer easily and immediately, in plain English, from your monitor screen. You could create simple conversations with your computer, tell it to do simple things, without really programming at all. The ability was at your fingertips. Along with your computer came an instruction book.
For the Apple II, the book taught how to program in Applesoft, a version of BASIC written by Steve Wozniak—who, of course, is the man who built the Apple in the first place. Just like his computer, he made Applesoft super easy to learn, super fun. Brilliant, generous, and mischievous too, Woz makes everything fun. Of course, the ability is there in today’s personal computers, just much harder to get at and the languages more complex. To most folks today, unless they're really interested in becoming techs or designers, letting the computer do the work is the ticket.
Meanwhile, forget 747s; even our phones are poised to take us to Mars and beyone the Solar System! Er, with the thrilling help of NASA.