My computer and I have a complex relationship that reminds me of my first crush – an elementary school experience. Martin, a cute, aloof blond boy sometimes played nice but more often he ignored or teased me. My emotions swung between elation and misery faster than the senior girls switched boyfriends. Eventually I retaliated by breaking the nib on Martin’s favorite fountain pen. That might seem mild by today’s standards, but it felt delicious at the time. My computer sometimes evokes that violent side. Tempted as I am to throw the digital demon across the room, I hold back. I am, after all, mature enough to refrain from aggression – usually.
My present computer is an ASUS laptop about a year old. Do not ask me the size of its RAM, or for detail on its CPU or OS. Our relationship is not that intimate. ASUS is an elegant thing, slim as an athlete and much lighter than my bulky old Samsung model. But now I see smaller systems on the market: notebooks, tablets, netbooks, iPads. As I write, that list becomes outdated and I feel caught in a flood of technological turbulence.
If you are a digital native, you likely take your devices for granted. The promise of an upgrade or thought of a new device may even excite you. Not so for digital immigrants like me. When I was a child, television came with rabbit ears and screens the size of a microwave window. When DVD players arrived on the scene, my husband and I had just become comfortable with our VCR. A few years ago, when I bought an early model iPhone, my 16-year old grandson did not welcome me into the new era with a high-five. Instead, he shook his head and said, “What a waste.” He knew most of the phone’s features would sit idle.
New devices and upgrades alternatively frighten or frustrate me. Just when I get comfortable, a digital newcomer arrives to remind me of my interloper status. Yes my relationship with technology sucks. I admit that. So I have undertaken a review of my life with ASUS using five relationship stages.
The Honeymoon Stage is that starry-eyed period full of unlimited possibility.
For me, this phase lasts through the unpacking. Faced with a lifeless computer and a multitude of discs and instructions I call my daughter. She Who Sold Me the System tells me to take a Valium. She will set it up for me.
I curse my way throughout the Individuality Stage: Damn it I was sold a bill of goods.
Then I move on to the Stability Stage: I guess I am stuck with you. Nothing much happens here – like living in the doldrums – until my desire to write turns serious.
Then, I edge toward the Commitment Stage: Let’s pull together and make this thing work.
So, at the age of 65 I find myself enrolled in a course at Kwantlen Polytechnic University called “Writing for New Forms and Digital Media.” Every Wednesday I sit in a classroom with 20 other students – most of them not much older than my grandchildren. I soak up information on computer applications and their use in the creative writing world. But this is not a passive learning environment, students familiarize themselves with the new technology by engaging with it.
Recently I wrote my first tweet. My 18-year-old grandson is my first follower.
And this is my first blog.
The big news though? The more I engage with my computer and the digital world, the more my fondness for geekiness grows. Perhaps ASUS and I will make it to the Reconciliation Stage: I have chosen you for my growth.