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My First 50 Years With Computers


Flash forward half a century

When I complain that my computer crashing took me off the grid for three days this week, that isn’t exactly true either. For the holidays I bought myself the new Kindle Fire HD. It’s a wireless tablet that weighs only a few ounces. I got the one with the bigger, color touch-screen and the smaller memory. By my rough calculation, I would have to buy my first computer 64,000 times over to get the same data capacity. In today’s economy, at my current earning rate, the Kindle cost roughly two-day’s pay.

Perhaps my old plow horse computer died when it saw the shiny new tablet. The little youngster came out of the box already charged and already talking.

“Hello, J Dennis,” it said. “Would you like to hear some of the music already on your digital playlist? Or perhaps I can access any of the 107 books you have stored in the Amazon Cloud? I could read one to you.”

The tablet is not for serious writing. It’s more like a toy pony than a mule. It’s too small and frisky to work with all day. But the little guy has gusto and it likes to travel. It now reads my email aloud every morning. It scans my Facebook friends at a glance. In seconds it can access hundreds of notes I stored in the Cloud for my next history book (that I hope to begin writing next week). It plays movies in high definition and stereo sound. It takes pictures and surfs the Web and it especially likes to play games. I’m teaching it to make breakfast and fetch my slippers.

I am impressed. I am amazed -- exactly as I was with my first computers in 1963 and in 1983. We live in miraculous times. And perhaps, given those few days to think about computers past, I should be thankful too. I work alone and these clever machines connect me to the planet. They deserve more than a kick and a curse.

Oh, by the way, my old computer is back. It wasn’t really dead, just a slight loss of memory. It happens to the best of us. My tech replaced a few parts and zapped it to life. The two of us are together again, like the farmer and his mule, plowing words and planting thoughts as another New Year dawns.


Copyright © 2012 by J. Dennis Robinson, all rights reserved. Robinson’s history column appears in the Portsmouth Herald every other Monday and exclusively online at his independent Web site He is the author of 11 books including UNDER THE ISLES OF SHOALS and AMERICA’S PRIVATEER, available on and in local stores


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