Thursday, March 13, 2008


I stumbled upon this little thing I wrote a while ago... I wrote it whilst I was in a ponderous mood. We live in a strange time:

A few months before I flew to Zimbabwe, I remember sitting in my kitchen filling out forms so I could get a VISA. I enlisted the help of Mom's electric typewriter, excavating it from it's grave in the desk downstairs. My parents saw me using the typewriter and began telling me about how their days in college. They used to type entire reports on typewriters! They had a few strategies for correcting mistakes, but it was mostly a one-chance operation. They thought it strange that they had relied so heavily upon typewriters, but that I didn't even know how to really work the device.

Technology changes -- it becomes more and more amazing. Not having gone to college when my parents did, I can not give a comparison between then and now, but I'd like to relate one small anecdote that shows what it's like for me in college.

A month or so ago, I was sitting in my circuits class. The class was taught by Wade, a graduate student, who stood at a podium in the front of the classroom. From there, he controlled a PowerPoint presentation that was being projected onto the screen at the front of the room. He drew on the slides (nowadays they don't slide, but we still call them 'slides') with the mouse for emphasis.

I had procrastinated doing my assignment, so I had to work on it during class. During class, I finished all of the assignment except the part that would be easier to do on a computer. Once class ended, I pulled my lap top computer out of the bag at my side, opened it up and started typing. I copied and pasted a few times for the assignment (didn't even bat an eye) so I wouldn't have to retype anything -- because that would be too much work.

Once I had all the code written, I pulled it into Word so that I could format it nicely onto one page. I shrunk the font size down so that it would fit. Then I had to print.

Still sitting in the same chair, I turned on the wireless network connection of my laptop. Once it found the network (a 5 second wait), I told Word to print my document to the campus printers. Once it sent the job (through the air), I closed my laptop. Mind you, I had been looking at a screen that is thinner than a spiral notebook.

I stuffed my laptop back into my bag, slung it over my shoulder and headed downstairs to the printer in the front of the Clyde building. I touched the screen of the printer to awaken it, then slid my school ID card through the reader on the side of the screen. For some reason, this printer wasn't working. So, I wandered over to the Widtsoe building, walked up some stairs, then around to the computer lab, where I again slid my ID card. This time it worked. The screen showed me that I had just under $2 left on my account. The money got there in the first place by me transferring $5 from my credit card a few months earlier -- a transaction I did online; no money was ever touched. The pages printed; I stapled all my papers together, then turned them in.

So, that's how homework's done today. I wonder what my kids will do...


And this is my keyboard in the dark:

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