My induction into the world of technology dates back to the behemoth days, when mainframe systems took up entire ice-cold floors of office buildings. In the 1970s I wrote programs on punch cards in languages such as COBOL and MARC IV. When a program malfunctioned (usually at 2 or 3 AM) I would get a call from sys ops (the system operators) and have to head for the office in the dark where I would then read the “dumps” — stacks of green and white striped paper, often a foot or two high, of densely packed hexadecimal code that when properly interpreted would lead me to the broken line of program code and/or the offending data record that caused the program to abort. I had worked my way up from programmer to analyst and system designer in the days when databases were new and required experts to create the requisite “data dictionaries.”
By the early 80s I had left the corporate world and opened shop as a publicist, sharing an office suite with John. I bought one of the first IBM PCs for our office and taught myself a new database programming language called R-Base so that I could build a custom-made program for John’s management business. Over the years I moved the system from R-Base to Microsoft Access and now it’s a web-based application built with php, but functionally it is the same.
Eleven years ago I wrote one of the early books on how to build a web site, and while I don’t even attempt to learn all the new languages and programs, I still keep an eye on the trends and new developments…and I do acquire useful gadgets. I love my PDA (personal digital assistant). I was particularly happy to find that my new PDA, a Palm, was equipped for wireless connections to the Internet, a capability that enables me to pick up email and visit websites. The screen is small to be sure, but it fits in my purse, which my laptop does not. So, for the first time in many years, this past week I went out of town without my laptop.
It was a quick, four-day trip to New York, and I didn’t expect to have much time for writing. Just in case I did find some extra time to work on the Henderson biography, I loaded all the interview transcripts onto the PDA so that I could read them and make some notes. Of course, with the wireless connection, I fully expected to blog, even if inputting the text would be laborious.
I tell you all of this so you will appreciate the full extent of my chagrin as to the cause of my absence from DevraDoWrite this week. Bright and early on Tuesday morning I cruised to my blog site and…I could not remember the login code. The program in which I store such information was at home on my laptop. My little gray cells were not functioning. Another example, I suppose, of “use it or lose it.”