Wednesday’s Wandering Thought

Twenty-nine minutes.

It doesn’t seem like much time.

It was how long he waited for Microsoft to update.

MS updates always seem invasive. Waiting for it to do its thing is the norm. This is helpful, he reminded himself. New features. Updated security. Bugs fixed.

But he was on a writing schedule. This was twenty-nine minutes of not writing, of sitting and stewing, impatience and irritation growing, while the computer did its thing. Icons didn’t appear on the taskbar. No notice was given about how much longer was required or what was going on. All he could do is sip coffee, tap a finger, and wait.

Eventually, it finished. When the browser finally opened after twenty-nine minutes of waiting, it displayed a message.

He wasn’t impressed. MS had to make up a twenty-nine minute deficit before their updates would start saving time.

Rant over. Back to the normally scheduled program.

A History of Writing

The Atlantic provides a perspective of writing software. It fascinates me because of my personal history. I began with WordStar on a CPM 86 machine with a small green screen, and two 5 1/4 inch floppy disk drives. WordStar worked well for me but bundled software forced me to a switch to WordPro. WordPro was set up on a Zenith 150 with a 20 meg hard drive and two 5 1/4 floppy drives and an EGA 16 color screen. The colors didn’t matter but the resolution still wasn’t great. Switching to a VGA screen with 256 colors enhanced the experience. I still wrote in tablets and notebooks with a pen and then typed it all up.

Having a natural bent toward being a geek, I used to be really proficient with those programs, learning formatting, editing and saving secrets on my own. Friends and co-workers would come by or call me, asking for help about setting margins, centering, pagination, headers and other matters. People then wrote these insights up and made money off them by publishing books about these secrets, which never entered my mind to do.

Eventually, Microsoft became the Godzilla that wiped everything out, leaving me with Word. I adjusted to Word well in the early years. But modern improvements have made it less friendly. Word offer a gazillion templates when I use two. It’s odd how selecting File versus clicking on Open takes you down different paths. Adopting from version to version as the operating system changed has been a major irritant. I also eventually switched from a tower to laptops and notebooks, discarding the notebooks. I was sad to let them go. They, along with pens, were friends and companions, pets of sorts, for a struggling writer.

I honestly thought shifting to writing directly onto a computer instead of paper would be challenging. Perhaps using email and filling out computer forms over the years helped, but the change was easier than I expected. I even came to recognize the many advantages of using an electronic media to create.

I still read books in paper formats, though. Although I read and edit my own online, almost everyone else’s is printed out or purchased in a hard format. Yes, I have devices to read them, but that change is surprisingly taking me longer. I’ve seen articles about fonts and colors and the impact on reading on a computer but to me, it seems to be that I like shifting the book around for different angles, and that still doesn’t work well with the electronic devices.

Of course, it really doesn’t matter to me whether I’m reading a book online or a hard copy, as long as I’m reading. I guess that was the lesson for the transition from paper to computer, from WordStar to Word, it doesn’t matter, as long as I’m writing.

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