I finally learned to respect computers, the Internet

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by Herbert Goldstone

I didn’t care how many friends or members of my family had computers, I had no intention of getting one.

What was I going to do with it? If I wanted to talk to somebody why should I have to wait 10 years — well, it seemed that long sometimes — for the screen to clear so I could type in somebody’s e-mail address, assuming I got it right, then use the keyboard to enter my own e-mail address, assuming I got it right, and pound out the message and then, of course, go back and correct all the mistakes I’d usually make and hit the send key and hope I got that right.

A pox on this dot-com world, I thought. It was a lot easier and a lot faster just to pick up the phone and call whoever I wanted to talk to.

It’s busy? Call again later. Nobody home? So leave a message. Everybody has an answering machine, don’t they?

And if some television or radio station wanted to tell me about something, why not just go ahead and tell me, not order me to “log on” to something?

Well, I have to tell you that antediluvian thinking of mine changed radically a few weeks ago.

I’m in a steady every-two-weeks poker game with five friends. One of them is head of a company that designs a lot of interesting buildings like airport terminals. If you ever get lost in one it’s his fault.

He bought a new computer for his office and since I was the only one of the poker players who didn’t have a computer he decided to bestow the old one on me, complete with a separate telephone line modem, a separate keyboard, a large monitor — for the uninitiated that’s large gadget that looks like a television screen on a pedestal — and a multi-color, ultra-sophisticated printer.

These poker players were always e-mailing the latest jokes and other things to each other and arranging the next game, etc. And I was out of the loop except for some old fashioned phone calls.

“Get a computer and talk to us,” they kept telling me.

So I drove to my friend’s Manhattan apartment and he put the gift computer, in four large cardboard boxes, in my car and I drove it home. It all seemed to weigh a ton and gave me a sore back getting the boxes out of the car and up the few steps to my ground-floor garden apartment in Woodbury.

I opened the boxes and, besides the main units, all the mysterious cables and plugs seemed like an electronic jigsaw puzzle. I didn’t know which went where.

I checked the Yellow Pages, and found someone who gives computer lessons. He came over and put everything together for me and gave me a few one-hour lessons in computer operation.

It all takes up a lot of space, a large wooden table and a bridge table next to it for the computer and the good sophisticated word processor I use to write columns like this one, which has its own keyboard and monitor.

It does some interesting things like beep angrily at me when I spell a word wrong, indents paragraphs and ends pages where I set it. It doubles as a printer and a very good electronic typewriter when I want to use it for that.

And it stores everything on small disks, which also fit the computer.

The trouble is the company that made it is out of business now and once it konks out I can’t replace it. The computer has a good word processing system which I haven’t learned how to use yet.

I learned some of the basics in using the computer and the printer. Not that I know everything yet. I’m still rusty at some of the procedures. But I’m getting there.

My computer teacher assigned me an e-mail address and registered it for me and also signed me up with one of the providers. That’s the company that operates all the computer services.

One operation fascinates me. My daughter-in-law Cynthia is the manager of the large private school — elementary and high school — in New Hampshire where my grandson and granddaughter are pupils.

Cynthia e-mailed me three color photographs, one group photo and two close-ups of my grandson Gabe playing clarinet in his school concert.

My instructor set up the computer and printer so I was able to print, in full color, copies of the photographs. I have one framed on my piano.

It’s really amazing what you can do electronically these days.

Cynthia, my son Donald and I converse regularly by e-mail.

Another process that impresses me is my mail box. I have e-mail addresses of all the poker players in it and I can send an e-mail to all of them in one message, not the five separate messages phone calls require.

And there’s the Internet, that vast electronic library of information that’s available with a computer.

Just for a test the other day I typed in “tennis” to see what would come up. I got a load of information about Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, who played in them, who won, and all sorts of facts about the game.

What intrigues me is the vision of all the people who sit down and feed all the information about anything you can think of into the Internet.

Just one tiny example. You can get the present and future weather in just about any community on Earth.

Oh yes. I learned one of the most important features of a computer. I can play solitaire on it.

And it won’t let me cheat.

Updated 7:20 pm, October 10, 2011
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