Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Know Nuthin' 'Bout Birthin' Apples

That was my silent, first reaction when I was asked to sub an adult class about blogging using Blogger. Wasn't the Blogger part that had me in a Prissy. (If you have no clue what I'm talking about watch Gone With the Wind to get yourself edumacated). Nope, I was worried about the classroom of Mac computers. Silly, really.

BC, before calligraphy and before children, I was a computer programmer. I began my career in the late 70s. Computers, no longer the size of a house and for government use, were the size of a full-sized Buick automobile and took up the space of a bedroom. These systems were known as mini-systems and were made by companies like Prime Computer, DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation), CDC (Control Data Corporation, where I earned my computer programming and operator certificate) and Basic 4, the computer system I mostly worked on. IBM was the industry standard. When Big Blue spoke we all listened. Microsoft and Apple were just the dreams of two young men.

Even though the boxes that housed the electronics were different outside, inside they all functioned the same way. The CPU (central processing unit), ALU (arithmetic logic unit),  Core memory (before memory circuit got cheap and small enough to be RAM (random access memory), boiled down to a bunch of circuit switches that were either 0 (off) or 1 (on). So I took a deep breath and relaxed. This would be the same way. It also helped the instructor answered some questions I had about booting the system, logging on, using the projector, and his lesson plan for the second class. No worries. I also had a back up plan as any self-respecting, computer programmer would have in this situation. I'd have the safety and security of a laptop.

I arrived at the computer classroom early just so I could familiarize myself with the machine. I put my stuff down on a table, approached the main terminal, and gave the mouse a wiggle. Nothing. No buttons or switches on the front of the terminal and there didn't seem to be a CPU tower. Nope, this was a sleek, elegant, minimalist all in one, monitor and CPU. No buttons, red, blue, or amber lights to indicate an On switch. Step one, check to see if the beast is plugged in. Yup, plugged into a power strip, and the power strip was on. I ran my hands around the edges: top, sides, button. Zip. I took a sip of water to swallow a moment of panic. It wasn't really not knowing how to turn on the machine, but the students wouldn't be able to follow the bouncing cursor on the projector. The projector worked by pushing the power button on a remote control. That worked just fine except for the glaring No RGB message projected on the wall.  Another crawl around the terminal. From the back I could see a small, almost invisible ring,on the lower right side. A stupid place for a power button, I thought. A push and voilá! The main terminal lit up and was projected on the wall.

I settled into my command chair, took a sip of water and read the instructor's syllabus. It was amusing when the students began to file in. First, there was that shocked look that they had entered the wrong classroom and then several of them told me they didn't know how to use a Mac. No worries, I told them. I didn't tell them I just learned how to turn the box on 20 minutes earlier.

Andy, maybe you can put a small sticker on the back of the terminal above the on/off switch. Label it PhD. Push here, for us PC-uddites.

Have you done anything lately to step out of your comfort zone?


  1. The first time I saw the mac laptop mouse with no buttons on it, I was baffled. Someone had to show me how to use it. A mousepad that is the button? Who would have thunk it!? :)

  2. When I find myself on occasion to be using a PC I am at a loss to understand the use of Control Panel-- and the inability to drag and drop programs.

    Although I am told that your latest version of Windows now can do almost everything 2009's Mac OS did. ;)

    As I lay on my deathbed and they asked me who could cover the class, yours was the only name I sputtered out.

    Thanks for covering-- you did a great job.

  3. Great story! I laughed out loud when I read ‘edumacated’! I thought only my family used that expression! LOL Glad all went well!