Computers and the Family Revolution

>> Tuesday, 23 November 2010

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I remember when my dad got his first computer, a North Star Horizon. It was not a family computer, oh no. Back in the dark ages you see (somewhere around 1981-ish, even before the ZX Spectrum appeared on the scene if you are antiquated enough to remember those), computers were not for families. Computers were serious things. They were techy. You had to be a bit of a nerd to 'get' them. The were ugly boxes with integrated floppy disk-drives (if you were lucky) that were noisy, cumbersome, took up entire desks, and dominated the room. Looking too long at it's flashing green cursor could give you a migraine.



And if you wanted to ask it to do anything much more complicated than to play Star Trek (Battle Ships without the sound-effects) or to produce a biorhythm for you (don't ask), you had to know how to talk to it. You had to speak it's language, which at the time was Basic, a fiendish combination of 0's and 1's that sent any sane person over the edge - especially if that sane person was a 14 year old girl who's grasp of numbers was shaky at best.



So I and the North Star Horizon computer didn't spend very much time together, if I'm honest. I glared at it from the other side of the room and gave it as wide a berth as I possibly could. In fact, it wasn't until the early 90's that I really got up close and personal with a computer, and even then the thought that one of them would ever be anything more than something to record profit and loss on, or to word process documents, was about as likely as Patrick Swayze ever saying 'No-one puts Potty in the corner...' (Like the cultural reference? If not, I'm guessing you're WAY too young to understand this post).



Nowadays of course, things have changed - big time. Imagine your daily family life now without access to a computer. The very fact that you're reading this suggests to me that thought is probably inconceivable. We use them to organise our music, to watch tv and movies, and catch up on what we missed when we were out living our lives. We use them to edit movies, to upload them to the internet, and see how complete strangers across the world rate those movies. We use them to make telephone calls, to pay bills, to share news or simply to keep in touch with - or tabs on - friends and family across the world..



And that's even before we think about how they are used in a classic 'work' environment, and how we use them to organise schedules, keep track of appointments, manage our finances, pay bills, and remind ourselves of all the things we have on our to-do-list in our notebooks and never got round to because we simply flipped over the page to write the next list and forgot to check back that we'd finished the previous one. (Or maybe that last one is just me...)



And, of course, not forgetting how we use computers to blog...



You would think, in fact, that we might have reached something of a plateau on how computers fit into our family lives. But of course, then why would I be writing this post? (And 'for the money!' is not the correct answer here)



No, I'm writing this post as a trip down memory lane and because if I was planning on buying a new desktop computer anytime soon I have to admit that this one would be quite high on my list of possibilities.





The new All-In-One desktop from Dell has - and I quote - ' high-definition widescreen display, internet connectivity capability (Wi-Fi), DVD drive, and the ability to connect to TV tuners, cable and satellite boxes and gaming consoles through an HDMI port.'



It appears to have similar touch-screen function to that of an i-pad or i-phone - check the youtube Video to see what I mean - which allows you to use your fingers to draw, colour or leave sticky-notes on the screen (great - somewhere other than the fridge door to remember to check). And on top of that, it's not the bulky desktop design that we're used to, but fits neatly into a corner with a stowable keyboard. And due to it's 23" screen and the fact that it looks so good, it could even make respectable-sized alternative to a standard tv.



Which only goes to show how far we've come from the ugly plastic box that was off-limits to the family, and which used to sit on my dad's desk and torment me with it's flashing green cursor...



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6 comments:

Tattie Weasle 23 November 2010 at 14:54  

They've got one of those down teh local garage it is way cool and I am envious of it but there again at this timweof year I get envious of lots of things because they are all shiny and new and well I just love unwrapping things!!!!
PS It is also the time of year my husband takes the credit cards with him to work...mine included!!!

Domestic Goddesque 23 November 2010 at 18:12  

Our first computer was a ZX Spectrum, not that I ever got to play on it: Dad and the boys used it all the time though, which was anightmare because it plugged in to the TV. Good thing I liked reading!!

I wouldn't mind one of those Dells- they look very family friendly. Could you not talk them into a giveaway??? ;-)

nappy valley girl 23 November 2010 at 19:35  

Our first computer was a BBC Acorn, and I think my sister and I knew more about how it worked than either of our parents......

Today the boys have their 'own' laptop - the Doctor's old one, a Dell no less - and we have a laptop each. So sometimes there are three computers sitting in a row on the desk.....

mTFF 23 November 2010 at 20:59  

Ha ha! Brilliant! I bet you NEVER thought back then thinking of Patrick Swayze that anyone would be calling you 'Potty'. It doesn't have quite the same ring to it as 'Baby, does it? 'I do hope Dell paid you handsomely for that fabulous post. They are singlehandedly responsible for my never-looked-back- total switch to Mac (personal and professional). Perhaps if their computers didn't keep breaking down and they had reasonable customer service one might be slightly convinced. Oh yes, and if they weren't Windows..

Inaie 23 November 2010 at 21:15  

my in laws just bought one - i am just concerned about all the greasy little fingers on the screen. Surely it would be fine, right?

And I remember when I had computer science at school - they taught us how to understand the very complicated language of computers...kkk

Potty Mummy 24 November 2010 at 11:07  

TW - it sounds as if our husbands might be related?

DG, my bro's first computer was a spectrum - used to drive me crazy!

NVG, times have changed, huh?

MTFF, thanks, glad you liked it and no, 'Potty' was not a name I would have imagined choosing FOR MYSELF back then. I clearly must have been when I did that...

Inaie - yes of course it would be fine. Of COURSE it would... (ahem...)

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