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Monday, September 13, 2004

Personal Internet History

For me, using the Internet and using computers happened at the same time. I really can’t distinguish when I began using one and began using another. Throughout high school (up until 1993) I toyed around with word processing programs, math programs, and video games, but I never really used computers. I had friends who tapped into their grade records at the school district level via the Internet, so I knew what was possible, but I guess I had an inherent fear (my dad is a farmer and resists computers entirely) and insecurity about them. In fact when my friends got caught for their little grade-changing adventure, my biggest defense was that I didn’t have a clue how to do what they pulled off…so, I didn’t get in trouble for that one. Experiences like this gave me additional security in my ignorance.

Then, during my first year of college (1993/1994) I resisted computers while concurrently being introduced to the Internet. I’d love to say I was attempting to complete some class project or expanding my formal education, but I wasn’t. This is the truth and, in some respects, I’m opening myself up for criticism of some kind for admitting it in an open forum. I learned of the Internet in my search for information about a famous model of the time, Niki Taylor. I wanted to know everything about her and the university librarians were very helpful. They introduced me to CD-ROMs containing info on many people, famous and not-so-famous. Then, one day, some computer geek told me I could look up GIFs (he pronounced them “jifs”) from places all over the world by connecting to various “servers.” I had no idea what he meant but, hey, if it meant I gathered more information, then I was willing to give it a try. I watched him as he typed in information to connect to various places. He would say things like, “Hey, here’s someone in San Diego will a lot of stuff. Wait, this guy in Philadelphia has more.” I was amazed at the possibilities, but still was resisting learning how to do them myself. My best friend even wrote to her mother using Pegasus, a thing she referred to as “email” because she said it was cheaper than long distance phone calls, but I never wanted to learn more than that.

Then from 1994-1996 I was serving a religious mission in Spain and had no contact with computers except on two occasions. One, my mother sent me a letter where she said I could send he a message from one computer and she would receive it. I was fascinated, so I went to a Cyber Café and sent a message. I was astounded a few weeks later to find out, in a letter, she had actually received it. The second occasion was when I was talking with people on the streets and noticed a huge display for something called Windows 95. I knew it must be something important but I had no idea what Windows, or for that matter Microsoft, was.

After returning and restarting college in January 1997, I realized I had some serious computer catching up to do if I wanted to be considered a capable college graduate. I will never forget the day when I was determined to learn computers and entered a computer lab alone. I sat at a computer and had no idea what to do. I fiddled with the keyboard and monitor, but nothing happened. I reluctantly asked the computer lab assistant to help me out. He came over and sat down and said, Okay, what do you want to do?” I said, “I want to learn how to use this thing.” He said, “Alright, let’s get started.” I just sat there. He said, “Well you have to turn it on.” I said, “I don’t know how.” His countenance faded, “You don’t know how to turn it on!?,” he said, not so reassuringly. “No,” I responded. He questioned, “Well, what have you used computers for, so far?” I said, “I have never used a computer for anything serious in my whole life.” Then he became very unbelieving and frustrated. He said, rather harshly, “I can’t help, I won’t help you, I’m not here to help people who cannot even help themselves. Please leave this lab. Take a class where you’ll learn the basics and then come back and I will help you.” He was serious, but then, so was I. I took a class, then another, then several multimedia-type jobs, and now, years later, I am very proficient with computers. And, I’ll never turn back.

The Internet plays a very important role in my professional and personal life. Social software, however, plays a smaller role. I do not even use Instant Messaging yet. This is probably because I view these services as intrusive. This is the same reason I refuse to get a cell phone. I don’t want to be bothered with people wanting to get a hold of me at all hours of the day. I know, it’s silly, similar to my initial reluctance to using computers. I’ll overcome this reluctance, just as I did before, and soon will use social software properly to enhance my life (this is partly the reason for taking this online interactions course at this point in my life).

6 hours (for my current Instructional Technology 7150 Course)


David said...

Not a lot of comment about your history with social software. Have you been using it much? Or is that the message of the piece - that you have experience with multimedia stuff, but not the Internet / SS per se? As for yor model comment, I remember when I first realized people had posted pictures of Elle Macpherson to the net. I lost a day or two on that one. =)

Preston Parker said...

Yes, that is a point I was making, that I haven't had much experience with Social Software.