All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
From my first glimpse into the world of computing, I have hated computers. I remember the first time Tom took me to the computer center at Purdue University. The well-lit room was bustling with young men filling machines with oblong cards that had holes punched in them. I saw a poor schmo drop a stack of cards and burst into tears. Another young man gotten his cards disarranged and was muttering quietly by a long table while he looked for the errant card. Tom carefully put his card into a machine. He stepped away from the machine and said that we had time to go to the Union for a snack. The cards were being processed and that would take a while. The despair in that room was palpable.
We spent many a “date” night at the computer center. I didn’t like to be around all the frustration and negativity but his grade was firmly attached to the machinations and controlled chaos of the place. I could read and write almost anywhere and did so under the glaring fluorescent lights. Then one evening we were walking by the main computer and Tom wanted to talk to the professor. The main frame was housed in a cavernous room. Tom wanted to introduce me to the professor. I have no idea what he was thinking! The professor asked me my major and I told him “education.” The professor told me to change majors because his computers would one day replace teachers. I told him when a computer could give a child a hug or a smile they still couldn’t replace a teacher. You can’t measure the human touch but a child deserves a smile or a frown or a little pat on the back and a computer can’t do that for a kid. Tom knew it was time for me to leave because once again his grade was on the line! We wished the professor a “good night” and I left muttering under my breath.
It has been nearly sixty years since that incident and we know what good teachers computers became. The pandemic proved that machines aren’t teachers and teachers aren’t machines.
Today computers are small enough to fit into our pocket or handbag. Kids and adults are addicted to their use. Cell phones have almost the same computing power as the old main frame but they can’t replace a human either. Face time is great for seeing friends and family who live away but who would prefer that experience over actually being with the people you love.
Computers are an aggravation like no other. This weekend I tried to preregister for a procedure that I am going to have. I parked my fanny in front of the monitor and attempted to answer all the questions. Let’s just say that I had to consult with IT services to help me wade through the idiotic questions and follow the prescribed course. For example, the machine wanted to know what facility I would be visiting. The scroll down choice bar did not offer the facility nor would it let me submit until I answered the question. The thoughtful young woman got me over that hump. She stayed on the line and led me through the rest of the registration. She turned me loose when I was on the last section of questions. I thought I could finish alone and just hit the submit bar. I hit the submit bar and after 5 hours my registration is out in the ether somewhere. That worked really well. Tomorrow I will call a real person and ask whether I should come in person to fulfill the preregistration. I will have to listen to bad music and punch in a bunch of numbers which will take at least another hour before I get a real person to speak about this issue.
As Miss Pat used to say, “It is enough to make you light the filter tip of your cigarette.”