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Henry was wildly enthusiastic. “We must get a computer,” he declared as he talked with friends and saw what they could do on their computers. Henry had always been keen to experiment and try out new appliances and gadgets. I definitely was not!

To me, the word “computer” conjured up memories of an enormous object which occupied most of the space in a London office in early 1960’s. When, a few years later, I worked as a survey interviewer and found one of the questions to be asked was, “Do you have a PC at home.” I was puzzled. Why would anyone want one of those things in their house!

But technology had progressed and now computers have become a part of life for many. Henry was not daunted by my lack of interest, and when a friend returning to New Zealand offered us his computer and stand (with a few “how to” books thrown in) for $400, it was a done deal. He brought it around, set it up and switched it on. We were amazed to see a personal message of “Welcome” appear on the screen. How clever, we thought!

The Year was 2002, and that computer now, compared with today’s models, would probably be regarded as an antique! But for Henry, it was an exciting new toy and he became completely absorbed.

A few months later we got a printer and got on to the internet. But in spite of the “how to” books, we still understood very little of the intricacies of a computer. The service provider offered 24/7 help, but that only caused us more confusion. “Click – Press – Click Again” – The voice sounded like someone on another planet. “Now Press Enter – No Delete That – Press The One Below” – The voice droned on. After an hour of getting nowhere and feeling totally exhausted, we all gave up the effort.

Help 24/7!

I was still pounding away at my old electric typewriter for any documents which needed to be typed. Then one day Henry took some of my study notes into a local real estate office to get them photocopied. While there, he started talking to the receptionist about our computer problems and she offered to come around and give us some tuition – which she had learned from her school-age daughter!

“She’s coming on Tuesday”, Henry announced gleefully.

Frances proved to be a good teacher, and I feverishly scribbled notes as she went along to supplement what was already in the folder she had thoughtfully provided for us, complete with diagrams. Henry was fascinated and couldn’t wait to get started with all this new knowledge. I still pounded away at my electric typewriter.

It seemed that the whole English language had been rewritten! I learnt that “To Burn”, did not mean one was starting a bonfire; “Cut and Paste”, no longer referred to those cookery recipes I would cut out of glossy magazines and paste into a scrapbook. And, oh, the “Mouse”! We were not talking now about those pesky little creatures which invaded my home from time to time – but to me, this mouse seemed almost as terrifying! As I clicked (Right or Left?) the cursor careered wildly across the screen or else disappeared altogether. And as a result, all sorts of strange non-sequential phrases appeared on the screen, completely spoiling my careful efforts.

But Frances was determined to wean me off that typewriter. “Nonsense,” she said in answer to my protests. ” You will find it much easier, and you can correct your mistakes, and alter anything.” And so it was – eventually! Click, Press, Double-Click – I was so glad to find the “Undo” button! ” Delete” was very useful too – sometimes!

We got a new computer, technology continued to progress – and so did I, although at a much slower rate. Things gradually began to click in my mind. I began to send emails. But, oh dear, why did that font size change suddenly and shrink from 14 to 10, then refuse to return to 14 and stay there – I mean, even well-washed woolen jumpers wouldn’t shrink in size that much! And, why, oh why, did a whole sentence suddenly appear in capitals; didn’t I see the orange light? Enough to make anyone yell, surely!

But I persisted in spite of minor accidents from time to time; the occasions when I inadvertently pressed SEND instead of FILE and a whole email took off – unfinished and unedited! Then there was an occasion when I got to the end of what I thought was a beautiful piece of typing, Then click – or was it press, and the whole page disappeared like some sudden conjuring trick. But, unlike all good conjuring tricks, it never appeared again!

Hm, Did I say minor?

I got on to Google and discovered a whole world full of information. But as I started to type in a word for ‘search’ I found that the computer was jumping to conclusions and deciding what I wanted. Hey, wait a minute! Why on earth should a word starting with “gr” end up as “Grace Kelly”; or what about “p” producing “Pizza Hut” and “fl” giving me “Flybuys” – what a crazy selection anyway!

But even our newer computer was getting out of date and suddenly Google was not so helpful. “Internet Explorer cannot display this webpage” frequently came up, even before it knew what I wanted sometimes. I was frustrated!

However, Henry now had a fairly new laptop which I had never attempted to use and had no idea how to operate. But one can learn – hopefully! So one day I got it out and decided to teach myself. Once it was connected to the power – where was the button for ON? I couldn’t follow either Henry’s notes, or the meager instructions supplied with the laptop – obviously written for intelligent computer users, not dummies!

I discovered the ON button eventually, hidden in a corner, and things began to appear. I moved the battery mouse around. “Click, Click, Press, Press”, got the password in, but now an arrow appeared pointing right. Where to? I had no idea what to do next; frantically I clicked and pressed and tried out everything on the keyboard. Suddenly some icons appeared. But they had gone before I knew what to do with them. “Click Click”. I was getting more stressed and frustrated. Not recommended for high blood pressure! Panic Button!

So I decided to close it down

But how! POWER button?

I searched wildly for a button which indicated the “shut down” on the notes. Nothing! I pressed buttons – lights came on – press again – lights went off. Just when I thought I had managed it, an orange light appeared again. Try something else – Press, Press. Finally, it seemed to have shut down by some mysterious means. I decided I definitely needed expert help, and meanwhile went to make myself a cup of strong coffee to soothe my frayed nerves!

Maybe I should get a new, right up to date latest technology computer – that really will drive me round the bend!

Click – Press – Click by Lydia Penn

Author: Lydia Penn

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