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Here Comes Treble: Conversion

When it comes to reading and writing Isabel Bradley has enthusiastically enlisted into the electronic age.

When I first learned to type, it was on my mother’s very old Underwood typewriter, probably dating back to the 1930s. It was a heavy machine with a black iron frame and keys that needed to be pushed down at least a couple of inches to get them to make their mark on the paper. I became quite proficient on this old machine, before going off to secretarial college. There I sat primly at a desk in a row towards the back of a room filled with similar rows, in front of a plain but ‘modern’ Olivetti typewriter. Gradually, over the year’s course, I brought my speed up to an amazing 35 words per minute.

My typing skills continued to improve as I moved from one company to another and as the technology continued to improve. The advent of the electric typewriter brought increased speed, then came the electronic typewriters that held a memory of about ten words and could correct the original without me having to erase or use Tippex. It was all rather like magic to me, and each improvement was something to be celebrated and assimilated as fast as possible.
There was even a music-writer in my work experience, a very awkward machine to use. The results, were wonderful, though, showing neatly-produced staves and notes in the midst of a musical newsletter that I used to produce.

Eventually, I became a secretary at our local primary school, just as computers were being introduced. I learnt to use Word Perfect in about five minutes and soon became a specialist. The speed of my typing improved phenomenally, while I retained my accuracy. The facility to move text around without having to re-type pages of text was, to me, like manna from heaven. I loved the physical skill that I continued to polish, and it made writing easy.

The next leap of technology was to Windows and the need to learn how to use a mouse. I never liked mice, and this electronic version was no exception. What did I need a mouse for? I dug in my heels and refused to touch one for a good two years or more. Eventually, however, the deputy principal who had introduced computers to the school loaded an early version of Windows onto my computer, put a mouse in my hand and insisted that I learn to use it.

Now, of course, 13 years down the line, the mouse is like an extension of my hand, and I can still type fast and accurately, cut and paste, insert and compute and generally do amazing things on my computer.

Now, it seems, Windows is reaching the stage where we won’t even need a keyboard on which to type, it will all be touch screens and virtual keypboards and we’ll be working in ‘the cloud’ instead of keeping our own work safe on our own personal computers.

Conversion, up to now, has been gradual and easy, from the ancient typewriter that built muscles in my fingers to easy-touch keyboards on fast computers with a mouse to help out every few moments: I love my computer. I’m not so sure about Windows 8 and touch-screens, but who knows – maybe that will, ultimately, become second nature too.

Meantime, there’s been another conversion. I’m not entirely converted yet, but I’m well on the way. It’s the whole replacement of paper-and-ink books by electronic readers. My son, of course, has had one for years. Now, with our imminent trip to Europe to attend the wedding of Leon’s son, Leon and I finally decided to buy ourselves a Kindle each. I’ve tried it out and it is like magic – press ‘buy’ on the touch screen, and within seconds the book I’ve selected is there, waiting for me to read it. No light needed – we have a version that has its own adjustable source of light, so it will be perfect for reading on the ‘plane. Even better, our pockets and my handbag and our luggage will not be cluttered with tomes of heavy reading-matter.

The Kindle is loaded and just waiting for me to switch it on and begin reading novels by my favourite historical authors, Sharon Penman and Barbara Erskine. I’m practically drooling at the prospect of delving into these juicy books. And of course, there is the fantasy series which I’ve just started reading, which my son gave me, five juicy, absorbing novels. I’m actually looking forward to the flight.

So far, though, it is more costly than the old pen-and-ink, flip-the-pages version. Those I can borrow from the library at the cost of a few rand a year. With the Kindle, every book I download costs at least fifty Rand, and usually quite a bit more. Yes, there is a library service at the rate of borrowing one book a month. I usually read anything up to eight in a month, so keeping my addiction fed on the Kindle alone will be a financial challenge.

I still have bookshelves filled with my favourite ‘re-read’ books, hard copies of much of my writing, and uncountable photo albums. But I am seriously considering converting all of our history, entertainment and memories into electronically stored and viewable files.

Of course, this is a long-term project. All I need is the certainty that I’ll be able to retrieve and access all of these items to get me going on this daunting task. I know how easy it is to lose it all with one hard-drive failure.

Perhaps what I need is to take control, make sure I make regular backups of everything that I convert, and then, like Nike, ‘just do it’!

Until next time…. ‘here comes Treble!’
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10 June 2013-06-10 by Isabel Bradley


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