It Does Not Compute

Once upon a time, I got so mad at my husband I couldn’t sleep. (Don’t worry. We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary last month.) I went upstairs where the family computer was, and started pounding out a tale involving an amnesiac heroine, a house of ill repute, and a dark and brooding hero who was going to do everything the heroine told him to without a question or raised eyebrow. I am blushing in shame just thinking of typing such utter nonsense, then and now.

Furthermore, I was so naïve I had no idea what a word count feature was; you see, we have four children, and I never got near enough to the computer while they all lived at home to do any exploring. I knew nothing. The day I discovered how to cut and paste changed my life, and that’s no exaggeration.

I’d grown up hunting and pecking on a big, black used Royal upright typewriter whose “e” key stuck from years of abuse and overuse in the English language. Remember carbon paper? Typewriter ribbons that smudged everything? When I went to college, my father bought me a used electric typewriter where I continued to type my term papers badly with the wrong fingers, and at the very last minute.

I am also an adult education typing class drop out, and have never taken any computer workshops which conceivably could have helped me to write 20-plus books somewhat more efficiently. Home row remains a mystery to this day.

Getting back to my first ill-fated “book” and the whorehouse. It turns out that at less than 20,000 words, it was a novella. But it was a start, and I gradually became slightly more proficient as the years rolled by. Entirely self-taught, I have a feeling I haven’t taught myself all that well, and am probably only using a small fraction of the operating system’s and programs’ possibilities.

One could say the same of my brain. But I have recently learned that despite the 10% myth, most of our brain is used most of the time, even when we’re asleep. I know just enough to be dangerous when I’m awake. Those hundred billion neurons are always busy and full of mischief. My webmistress rescues me regularly, and is worth every penny to maintain and update my website. Mind you, I’m not a total Luddite. Sometimes I’m even proud of myself that I’ve kept as au courant as I have. I remind myself for an old dog, I still have a few tricks left in me. But my four-year-old granddaughter probably knows more right now about technology than I ever will.

There are several manuscripts “under the bed,” never to see the light of day even if I could find the floppy disks they were saved to. (I know, it’s “to which they were saved.” My English teachers are long dead, and rules were meant to be broken, right?) I used to mourn them, but now feel I’ve saved myself much embarrassment and scorn. No one will be clamoring for Maggie Robinson’s juvenilia, if a past-middle-aged woman’s writings can be called that. I did win a few writing contests back in the pre-published day which helped boost my confidence, though I have no intention of trying to resurrect anything from the dust bunny skeletons now.

I’ve lost track of the desktops and laptops I’ve gone through, and the keyboards whose letters I completely erased with my fingertips. How many times have I bought and installed the Microsoft Word program? Bill Gates really owes me.

What’s your relationship with technology? Have you killed more than your fair share of computers? If you had to write in longhand, could you read your handwriting?

My kids’ initials

Maggie Robinson is a former teacher, library clerk, and mother of four who woke up in the middle of the night, absolutely compelled to create the perfect man and use as many adjectives and adverbs as possible doing so. A transplanted New Yorker, she lives with her not-quite perfect husband in Maine, where the cold winters are ideal for staying inside and writing historical mysteries and romances. A two-time Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice nominee, her books have been translated into French, German, Portuguese, Turkish, Russian, Japanese, Thai, Dutch and Italian. Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime and Maine Romance Writers.

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7 Responses to It Does Not Compute

  1. Monica says:

    Love the typewriter key bracelet! My daughter gave one to me. It’s my composing jewelry.

    • maggierobinsonwriter says:

      I know, isn’t it cool? She had an artist friend use keys that were important to our family. I love it.

  2. I’m pretty tech savvy, but have come upon some interesting ‘whoa’ moments. I tried setting up and using Dragon Naturally
    Speaking twice, both times to realize that the moment I tried speaking a story, I froze completely. Like you, I failed touch typing miserably and have gotten by with one finger rather well.

    • maggierobinsonwriter says:

      Yeah, I don’t think I could dictate anything; it’s just not how my mind operates. I envy people who can just rattle off their words!

  3. kaitlynkathy says:

    Oh, Maggie, I hear you. I did take personal typing in high school, but that was back in the manual typewriter and carbon paper days. I am desperately clinging to the version of Word that recently lost its “support” and using the oldest version within that one. I do not want to have to learn a new version, especially since I’m hearing that the new one is not user friendly (are any of the versions?) And, like you, I have older work I’d have a hard time accessing, Zip discs were supposed to be the be all and end all of storage systems at one time. Hah! Good thing I still print out anything I want to save. Some of it may not be worth keeping, but at least I have a copy if I need it.

    • maggierobinsonwriter says:

      I used to print out everything, which I discovered when we moved. To keep or not to keep? I’ll let the kids sort it all out, LOL.

  4. Jane Bigelow says:

    We got our first home computer after I was typing away at 2:00 a.m., trying to get a story ready by deadline. My husband woke up even though I’d moved the typewriter, and stood blinking in the light. “You know,” he said, “If you had a computer you could just hit a couple of keys and get a clean printout.” I asked if anyone would be open Right Then. It’s a love/hate relationship, but I wouldn’t go back.

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