The Computer Store
edited: Saturday, July 22, 2006
By Harold F. Hester
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Posted: Saturday, July 22, 2006
Become a Fan
Intended as a "story" but reads like a pretty good article about computers and the folks that understands them.
The year is 1941 and you have a need to feel power. Most likely you went roaring down Route 66 better then 100 mph in your dad’s 1936 Mercury coupe or enlisted in the military to fight against the evil Axis powers.
In 1950 with that same need for power you most likely borrowed your dad’s 1949 Ford big-block V8 and tried out route 66 again.
In 1960 – 1970s you taught your kids about love, honor, money, power and God and Country and they enlisted in the military to fight communism in sunny Vietnam.
1980s you traded stocks and bonds but the exhilaration of losing your money was not the feel of power you expected.
1990s you hired illegal field hands and the feel of power partially returned.
At the turn of the 21st century you master your computer by learning the word “boot” meant something other then footwear and “crash” and “freeze” meant a feeling of helpfulness, but you can now use MS Word and Excel programs as power was again in your grasp.
Have you again reached your pinnacle of gratification for power? Not yet.
The year is now 2006 and the adrenaline rush in your soul is bursting from your finger tips as you again feel the need for power - but where is it?
If you could have your druthers, would you druther have; your groceries manually checked with guaranteed errors; air traffic controllers looking out a window to control your landing; weather people wetting a finger and holding it outside to predict the weather or having to re-learn your math tables or having a calculator handy?
Smart computer people have given us our druthers… and much more.
It is difficult to imagine counting without numbers, but there was a time when written numbers did not exist. The earliest counting device was the human hand and its fingers. Then, as larger quantities (larger than ten human-fingers could represent) were counted, various natural items like pebbles and twigs were used to help count. Merchants who traded goods not only needed a way to count goods they bought and sold, but also to calculate the cost of those goods. Until numbers were invented, counting devices were used to make everyday calculations.
In todays world of milk-and-honey we have large numbers and a real need to monitor. Smart people have given us the means to do just that. They started us slowly with paper and pencils then calculators and now - computers. It use to take several minutes to add a long column of numbers then divide that total by another number then check those totals up and down then sideways and more times then not those numbers would not accurately total. When adding the same column three times and getting three different answers you kinda knew the brain was not listening to your pleas. A truism of math is that the same column of numbers will add the same top-down as it does from bottom-up. During the early hours of a work day that is correct but later in the afternoon that truism doesn’t always work. Calculators and computers do not have that falicy. When calulators were conceived their main function was to handle numbers and especially 1s and 0s and now they do that very nicely as they calculate, compute and advise in a blink of an eye and do it accurately, mornings, noon and night.
Computers are not smart. It’s the bright people that make the hardware and software of computers that put them on a like plane with humans.
Computer people are naturally smart and I listen to them – up to a point.
Modern mechanical computers have been around since before WWII when it took a whole floor to house those ten-ton monsters with more wires and connectors then you see in mega-store electrical and hardware departments. Computers as we know them started small then outgrew technology evolving from gargantuan to back sitting in the palm of your hand.
If you look in history you will see computers in use in ancient times in 500 B.C. China when they were called Abacus. Whatever we call them today from PCs to ^%* damn things; computers now rule our world and are misunderstood by the masses and only loved and cared for by a hand-full of people, or geeks as we lovingly refer to these very sharp numbers folks.
Geek is not a bad word. Computer folks are mostly nerdy and there are lots of brainy and rich geeks such as Bill Gates. Give me a few billion dollars and you can call me anything you like.
Geeks understand numbers but between their ears they are wired differently then normal folks. They think, play and work in another world. They even have their own language: motherboard, byte, folders, sub-folders, partitions, windows, hard-drives, monitors, wired or remote mouse, notebook, laptops, dialup, wireless, DSL, etc... Now these words are the same as normal folks use but to the geek, the words mean different things. Yesterday if you had told me you had a wired-mouse the picture in my mind would be a four-legged rodent high on moldy cheese and if you had said you had a hard-drive would have pictured to me a difficult journey with vehicle problems along the way. If you had told me your hard-drive crashed I would have pictured your wired mouse wrecking your car.
Education and travel are broadening experiences as is a secondary language. Traveling the world I discovered my second language had to be Computereez. The language is as complex as Chinese, as guttery as German, as romantic as French and is as misunderstood as English, but I am trying.
As a human race we use communication as a way to live, love and survive. Sometimes our communication skills fail and people are left at odds with others. For example when someone says to you, “How are you?” they are not asking a question but is meant mealy as a greeting. Granted, the question is a question but not meant as a question but in the language of greeting it is understood as not asking a question but mealy a way to start a conversation. Remember Bud and Lou? Computer folks are a lot like that. They understand the meanings of many unspoken words.
I told you computer men and women are clever.
This story could easily had been written as a He said – She said or a verbatim discussion between a customer and store owner, but you see that in everyday life and reading about it here would be similar to the last time you did not get your way – or even close to your way. Now if you think having-your-way is the only way, you may consider moving to another planet. That is not the way this world works. We all have our own specialties and things we understand. Our world today has made many of us into Jack-of-all-trades and masters-of-none or as some are referred to as Smart-Asses that given a grain of knowledge think we deserve the Nobel Prize for sophistication. It’s called; Give-and-take; Finding the middle ground; or Compromising.
A person’s age has everything to do with compromising and it is all because of perspective.
Your typical high-school graduate today doesn’t have any clues the combatants in our Revolutionary war, Civil war or WWI of II or even where Korea and Vietnam is located on this blue-marble we call Earth or reason for those wars. We are still struggling with the reasons for Iraq. A world without television or a radio with vacuum tubes is also difficult to believe those things have not always been there. Few of this teen generation know history but they all know their way around a keyboard and fully understand Rap, Bon Jovi and the Boss. They also fully understand computers while anyone older then fifty probable still spell computer with a “K” and are afraid of them.
The spelling “K” comment is tongue-in-cheek and if you have not had a fiftieth birthday you probable do not understand that “afraid” attitude. Under 50 age groups know computers can not bite your finger if you make a mistake or can not advertise to the world their master is an idiot if a wrong key is pressed nor can they do permanent damage to your bank account if you erase your hard-drive, but remember, of the 281 million humans in just North America, 104 million are over 50.
Hard-drive is a geek word that if you think about it, is truly an amazing piece of machinery. First think speed, then vinyl record players or tape player then bytes, then light-speed, then reading. Ready?
I fully understand if I take a hammer and hit a nail as hard as I can I will cause something to happen. I see it, I hear it and sometimes I feel it. What is many times difficult for me to understand is how a small disk revolving up to 7200 RMP (my vinyl record player’s speed was 33 and read by a needle) and not having anything in contact with its surface other then a beam of light that “reads”. What does that beam of light read? Bytes.
If you are old enough to remember Bud Abbott and Lou Costello you may be trying to see who is playing second base right now rather then understand “Bytes”
I choose not to beat the byte subject to death but just for edification: A byte is the unit most computers use to represent a character such as a letter, number, or typographic symbol (for example, "g", "5", or "?"). A gigabyte (GB) is a measure of computer data storage capacity and is roughly a billion bytes. A gigabyte is two to the 30th power, or 1,073,741,824 in decimal notation. I am not going to even mention Terabytes or Petabytes because in that rarified air even I get a nosebleed.
My first computer was equal to the IBM 650 that could hold up to 2000 words. My current computer has a hard-drive capacity of 60GB or said in another way, enough space to hold that first set of encyclopedias which I paid over a $1000, all the 40,000 pictures I took traveling the world and probably the whole library of congress (I may be stretching that a byte or two but the point is - Huge in a Miniature frame.)
Computer folks understand this.
Have you ever taken a corner in your car going just a bit too fast? Remember what happened? Have you ever chased one of your kids around a corner in your house and didn’t slow down before banging into the far wall? Have you…well, you get the idea. Now picture a beam of light traveling at the speed of light (186,272 miles per second) moving around inside your hard-drive looking in folders, moving around partitions in many different programs and doing it at light-speed is beyond my comprehension. That beam of light not only finds your data but it displays it onto a screen in a way you can understand. Computer folk understand this and how the whole show works. If the speed-of-light is difficult to understand, picture this; you know a bullet is fast; you know many times your reflexes are quicker then an eye-twitch so just for a frame of reference consider this; If you could get a bullet you fired from a rifle held at shoulder lever to travel at the speed of light and once fired it would not run into mountains or tall building, that bullet would travel around the world and hit you in the back eight times before you could jump out of its path.
Stop shaking your head, I told you light speed was fast.
All computers have built in electric fans to dispense heat - for obvious reasons.
Computer folks understand programs, partitions, folders, upload and download, drivers, HTML, USB, .exe, .dll, .INI, .xls, .doc, .jpg and many, many more.
Hopefully I am bright enough to listen to computer people and sharp enough to understand and learn from them. Everyone has bad days and even on good days I have been known to not listen and not learn. This world is a beautiful place to live and I thank God for the breath in my body, the spring in my step and the taste of honey after a tablespoon of caster-oil.
Now, today when you have a need to feel power, go create new files on your computer. Create new or just move a few hundred thousand of your files from one hard-drive to another. Send them over the Internet to the other side of the world. Move your money, shop for a new automobile, buy a tube of lipstick or rent your forehead on the Internet.
You have the power of the computer at your fingertips.
You can accurately do it and do it in a heart beat, thanks to many smart computer folks.
Computer people are different from most but intelligent in their own way. Listen to your computer people. If Brenda is not always 100% right, she knows what is required and what happens inside Snuffy’s computer much better then you or me.