Anne here, in a reminiscent mood. I was watching a documentary on TV the other night, about Steve Jobs and the growth of the Apple company and it started me thinking about my first computer and how it changed my life.
I came to computers reluctantly — most reluctantly. I saw no need for them. I didn't like the idea of them. I had nothing to do with them. (Yep, I was something of a Luddite.)
In fact, I remember when I was a student, an enthusiastic friend doing a computer course said that in twenty years every house would have a computer.
"Not mine," I said confidently. How wrong I was. (So was she — it took a lot less than 20 years.)
For me the change began when a friend of mine bought her first computer, an Apple Macintosh. She raved enthusiastically and kept telling me I'd love it, but her words fell on deaf (and stubborn) ears.
But my friend was cunning, and determined to make me use it — and when it came time for summer holidays, she arranged a computer borrowing schedule for her various friends and put me on the list. I had no interest in it, but when it came to my turn someone delivered the wretched thing to my door.
It sat in its box for a good part of the week, and finally I decided I ought to have a play around with it, only because I knew she'd ask me and I'd feel stupid if I said I hadn't even taken it out of the box. And mean because there were others on the list desperate to have it.
So I took it out and put it together. I was amazed at how simple it was to set up. I knew nothing about computers, and yet I was able to get it up and working purely by common sense and simple trial and error.
Just for something to do, I wrote a short story on it. And then I printed it out and Lo! it looked beautiful — so professional.
And with that, I was hooked. See, the previous year, I'd gone traveling (backpacking overseas) and had started writing fiction by hand, in spiral-bound notebooks. I brought home a hand-written novel and a bunch of short stories and a firm desire to become a writer.(Those are some of my notebooks — the top two I brought home from my travels. The cahier - French for exercise book -was bought in Quebec.)
But all of that writing had remained in those notebooks because I was no typist — I've never done a typing course, and can't touch type to save my life. I'm a reasonably fast hunt and peck typist but I make lots of typos. So typing up hundreds of pages by hand was out of the question — for some reason the mistakes always happened in the last few paragraphs of a page, and then I'd have to start the whole page again or produce pages heavy with liquid paper. And these were rough drafts and needed a lot more work before I could pay someone to type them up. So there they sat, quietly rotting. . .
But with a computer, I could fix the typos on screen and when it came to printing, with one click, out it would come: one perfectly typed professional-looking document.
So I went out and bought my first Apple Mac — it was the model before the Mac Classic. It was small with a tiny screen and no memory, but I loved it.
Every night after my work was finished, I'd switch on the computer and start on the next bit of my novel. I'd told nobody about my new ambitions to write at that point, so it was a secret between my little Mac and me.
As my novel got longer, I realized I was going to need more memory — at that point everything was saved on one of those little "floppy" disks. So I went to the computer shop, and bought an external hard disk. I well remember the salesman saying "This disk has got more memory than you and I will be able to get through in a lifetime."
It was 20 megabytes. My, how things have changed.
I sold that first book, and on the fax the editor sent me saying they wanted to buy it, she said, have you got email? You should go on email. Which was pretty new at that point. So I did, and that meant getting a new computer. I was sad to lose my little baby Mac, but going on email for the first time was a heady experience. And I loved my new Mac and what it could do.
I've gone through a number of computers since that first one — all Macs — and I've been fond of all of them. But it was that first one that really changed my life. If I hadn't bought a computer I don't think I would ever have become a writer. Any stories I came up with would probably have stayed in the spiral bound notebooks.
It's hard to imagine being without email and the internet these days, but even though I love the connectivity and so much of my interaction with friends is over the web, in a way, I miss the relative isolation I had, as well.
With my first computer, there was just me, the computer and the story — no other distractions. Now on my computer there's email, facebook, twitter, and endless fascinating research and other internet time-sinks. And I admit it — I'm distractible.
These days my whole writing world — friends, colleagues, readers, all sorts of people and worlds come to me through my computer, so now, in a bizarre twist, I've gone back to writing by hand a lot, in spiral bound notebooks, returning to the isolation of me, the story and the pen.
So what about you — do you remember your first computer? How did it change your life? And what's your biggest internet time-sink?