Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - February 23, 2018
My last constant
When personal computers initially appeared, first husband Jerome couldn’t wait to get one. As a writer, he saw the word
processing programs as a wonderful tool. But after his death, I rarely turned it on. Despite having taken some mandated
computer classes in school, my brain was still firmly rooted in the typewriter era.
Suffice it to say, I am NOT an “early adopter - a term technology buffs use to describe people who are among the first to jump on the technology bandwagon. As soon as a new gizmo comes out, they want to have one ... or at least try one.
Husband Art is an engineer who used to work with an early adopter. Art loved it because every time a new computer or software appeared on the market, Jim would buy it and give his older version to Art.
I’m inclined to think of myself as being a bit of a technophobe, but Art says that isn’t so. Because of his profession, Art was “into” computers before most people. Our girls were still pretty young when they received their first machines. Art saw it as the coming thing and felt the earlier they became proficient at using them, the better.
But I presented a problem. Art’s fascination with computers was already over by the time we met. To him, they were just tools. And in typical engineer fashion, he evaluated what was available and chose the PC style for a variety of reasons. But at my work, we had nothing but Apple products. So I told him I wanted a computer like the ones I was familiar with. He readily agreed ... but with the caveat that I’d better learn to take care of it myself. He found it more time-consuming than he cared to expend learning the ins and outs of a PC, and he had no intention of redoubling his work to learn Apple products as well.
So I reluctantly chose a PC for my home machine, making me “semi-literate” in both. But when we moved to smart phones that use yet another system, it went pretty smoothly. Art says that while I think of myself as being a bit scared of new technology, I seem to have embraced it.
Still, I remember how intimidated I was at first. And I think of how many men and women said it was too hard for them to learn as they were too old. Art thought it was all nonsense. He suggested most men have an ego problem and don’t want to look incompetent, and most women were taught not to break anything and so were immobilized by the fear of doing just that. He pointed to the older people at the genealogy center who were using computers every day and said that as soon as computers offered people something they wanted, they learned quickly enough. Being able to e-mail their grandchildren was probably the motivation for many older people. For my mother and her companion Stan, what drove them was being able to write their life stories, complete with photographs and documents.
For me, photography was the real breakthrough item. While I used e-mail and word-processing programs at work every day, it was a bit like learning to drive a car. It was something I did, but I really had little understanding of how it worked.
Then, Art bought me a digital camera for Christmas in 2004. I had been a picture-taker for years and had a fairly decent camera and accessories. But suddenly, I could take pictures and see the results immediately. And there was almost no cost associated with taking as many as I wanted. At Art’s cousin’s home in Wisconsin that Christmas, I alternately moved between taking pictures out the big window opposite their bird feeders and showing close-ups of those feathered friends to anyone who would look. Art’s brother Tommy commented, “She’s just like a kid in a candy store.”
Indeed, I was!
Moving to digital killed my photo album production. I have shelves of them in the basement, but suddenly I had so many pictures that albums seemed silly. That forced me to seek out new ways of storing and organizing my pictures - electronic ways. I also learned how to download pictures from the camera in various ways.
Then I moved this column online. Adding pictures no longer required turning in films for developing, then printing and finally scanning the print - a lot to get done in less than a week.
Still, always hauling a camera around was a pain, so I missed many photo opportunities that popped up after leaving my camera at home. Early cell-phone cameras helped, but the quality was generally poor - barely acceptable for any kind of publication. But with time, that has changed.
A couple of weeks ago, Art took me to Topeka for a conference and then he headed off to the Kansas Historical Society museum to do some research. He was surprised to learn staff members now encourage people to copy microfilm images with phone cameras, although they do still provide printing readers for those who haven’t quite made the jump.
My last column for 2017 closed with a tongue-in-cheek comment about how, with so much changing in my world, I probably should keep my now more-than-15 year-old column logo as it was the one constant in my life. But when reader Susan commented that she wondered what my new logo would be, I asked myself the same question. Almost immediately, my smart phone came to mind. Except when I want really high-quality pictures or the benefit of optical zoom, it’s my go-to documenting device.
So, it was the obvious choice. There goes my last constant.
Top: logo used on all columns in the past. Bottom: Yes, this is the phone I use! The top-center image reflects my need every year to photograph examples of Kansas sunflowers - the state flower. In the bottom row, starting at the left, is a picture from daughter Katie and husband Matt's wedding this past August; me, a bit older and without glasses after cataract surgery a few years ago; and the barn on the Freeland farm outside of my hometown of Burns, Kansas.