Monday, May 24, 2021

On the Cusp of Illiteracy Again

I wouldn’t have dreamt it few years ago, but these days my fluency in computers is almost gone. Did I ever speak that language?

There was a time, after I had bought an Apple Computer (because it was by far the cheapest), when I grew curious about computer languages and decided to try… now here I have to stop because the name of the language refuses to come. But as I typed on, it came back. I decided to see if I could program in…Basic. That was then the simplest language. The screen on my machine only held forty characters across (as it seems now). I bought myself a big green card and after many sweaty but prayerful efforts, I managed to stick it into a slot inside my computer. Amazingly it worked. Now I had 80 characters across. The next step was to get Basic to draw me a line on that 80-byte surface. That took about a week. Finally I’d done it. Not only that, but I also managed to print that line on a sheet of paper.

Brigitte was in the kitchen (no doubt cooking something she couldn’t replicate now [because she has the same problems I do]). She still recalls my triumphant entry holding that sheet of paper with the single line showing at the top.

“I made it draw a line,” I cried, showing the line to her. Pause. Well, that was the beginning. In a year or two I was earning a living by programming computers of all sizes and using all sorts of languages. The list of those would take me weeks to dig from memory, so I’ll spare you the pleasure of reading them, but machine language was one of those. Programming in that “language” is a little like scratching the inside of the machine with a screwdriver rather than speaking to it through a higher level language.

These days, alas, when some invading something wants to take over the job of protecting me from viruses (no, not that one), I have to call daughter Monique to tell me how to remove that something forever and ever—until it returns.

Among the illiterate now, the old problems are back again. How do I copy this page so that it will appears on my blog? If you are reading this, I succeeded. If not, I’m no longer in the company of humans. Time to learn how to use an IPhone…

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