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PARTING SHOT: About that transformational 'computer' age

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Sioux City Journal editor Bruce R. Miller

Bruce R. Miller

In the last day, I have spent 24, 27 and 36 minutes, respectively, waiting for a page to open on my computer.

I have also been asked to change my password 27 times because of a “security breach.”

To make matters worse, I’ve lost three documents just because a certain computer company was having hard-drive issues.

While waiting for the computer to “boot up,” I checked my phone and realized it, too, had program problems. “WARNING,” it screamed, “YOU MAY HAVE COMPROMISED YOUR PHONE.”

Quickly, I turned it off and prayed hackers weren’t going to ask me to pay them in bitcoins.

When the computer finally unlocked, I got a screen with the names of people who had suggested a single change on the program. I counted 57 “collaborators” and reported my problem to all 57 of them.

Meanwhile, my phone told me an update was ready to be downloaded. I figured, why not? It could keep the hacker at bay. As a result, my phone was unusable for three hours.

How about we delete?

If that doesn't sound bad, consider this: my iPad has frozen more times than Elsa. When it said it’s time for a update, I also learned there’s not enough storage for the additions. “Delete some photos,” it suggested in a cold, harsh way. Yet after I ditched everything from 2015 to 2019, there still wasn't enough room.

“Delete messages,” it offered as a compromise. So, every message I’ve saved for tax purposes disappeared.

“Delete apps that you don’t use regularly,” it insisted.

Sure enough, I no longer have a lifeline to restaurants that deliver during a pandemic.

By the time it asked me to trash “unread emails,” I rebelled and shut it off.

The good old days

When computers first entered our lives, they made Iowa Basics tests easier to grade. They didn’t hold the key to X-rated pictures or bootleg videos. They were a tool to improve our learning.

Oh, sure, colleges stepped out of their comfort zone and used them to match roommates, but computers weren’t accessible to just anyone. You had to be part of the computer programming team or someone with an ability to pick a lock.

If we needed to write a paper about a complicated subject, we didn’t just Google it. We went to the library and requested books that could take up to three weeks to deliver. We also consulted the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature and found the exact dates and pages of Time, Fortune, Newsweek and other magazines that had something vaguely related to the subject.

Because we couldn’t take the materials out of the library, we had to use index cards to copy down the information, so we could painstakingly enter it into our footnotes.

If we miscalculated and typed too far down on the page, we had to retype the page so those footnotes would have breathing room.

Serious subjects

While papers couldn’t be completed in a matter of hours, they did cover a range of serious topics. No “boyfriends of J.Lo” or “The Kardashian Family Tree” for us.

We unpacked lesser battles in the Crimean War and the medical discoveries of Louis Pasteur.

As computers got small enough to put on a desk, we didn’t need to consult the card catalog or memorize the Dewey Decimal system. We could just look things up.


By the time computers became affordable, a “cut and paste” function eliminated the need to take notes.

When cellphones arrived, we could just take a picture and call it good.

Now, we have access to thousands of articles, photos and videos that can make a report pop to life. We just need to figure out how to get the computer to quit stalling.

Or quit staring at the rolling circle of death for 27 minutes.

When those glitches get fixed, the computer age is going to be pretty darn terrific.


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