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Welcome to my story blog. I will post one new story here every day. You are welcome to comment on any or all of them. Enjoy!
                   --Lee Pound

Day 37 - My First Computer

I remember the day I saw my first personal computer well.

I was working for the newspaper in Newport Beach. Most of our type was set by very large typesetting machines but we still wrote everything on paper with typewriters. We did the accounting manually in large books. We wrote checks by hand. We posted payments in ink one at a time.

One day three large boxes arrived at the office. The publisher told me to figure out what to do with them. They contained one of those new-fangled devices, a computer, state of the art, modern in every respect.

I opened the boxes. There were four pieces, a box with places to plug things in, a keyboard with a wire attached to it, a thing that looked like a television screen, and a printer.

Now, before we go on, I’m going to use a couple of terms that may not be familiar to many of you. I already used one in the second paragraph: typewriter. This now obsolete machine was a mechanical device that allowed you to print letters on a piece of paper. With the use of carbon paper you could easily make two or more copies at the same time.

The second term that may not be familiar today is floppy disk. This was a flexible piece of plastic encased in paper that contained your data. It held an amount of data equivalent of one small digital photo.

Anyway, that first computer was super advanced. It had TWO floppy disk drives, far better than the earlier versions that had only one such drive. It also had 256,000 bytes of memory and you could run whole accounting and word processing programs on it, one at a time. (Today’s have over 1,000,000,000, that’s billion, bytes.)Of course you had to change floppy disks every time you wanted to run a different program. Isn’t technology great? The monitor was black and white (or yellow if you chose) and there was no sound. By the way, it was quite a wonder when the first color showed up. All those colored dots scattered among the white ones made for quite an enhanced experience.

I put that computer together. It might have flustered a lot of people but I figured out quickly that all those cords had different ends on them that only fit in one place. Once I got this, assembly was easy. I had that computer up and running in about 15 minutes.

The next big question was what to do with it. We didn’t have enough of them for the reporters. The publisher had no interest in using one. Production had all the machines they wanted. That left me in accounting. I found a program called BPI Accounting, made in Texas, and installed it. (That consisted of copying some files from one floppy disk to another floppy disk.)

Wow! Suddenly I could pay bills, write invoices, post accounts receivable, all right there on my single floppy disk in my computer. It was a lot of work though. You had to input everything, amounts, numbers, and addresses, all of it. Lots more work than our paper accounting system. With that one you got a bill and you paid it with a check and filed it. Now I had to input the entire bill, create a check and print it.

This brings up the third term: dot matrix. The printer used a ribbon to print everything out. You got one kind of type, a stylized series of letters made of large dots, difficult to read but passable enough. The checks were printed on dot matrix and there was a devil of a time getting it to print in the right place all the time. It was also almost as slow as writing by hand.

The magic happened at the end of the month. Each month I had to prepare a financial report which consisted of adding all the numbers in all the ledgers with an adding machine (another of those unfamiliar terms, this time self-explanatory) and then catching all the errors you made in the process.

This month, I pushed one button and the computer printed out a financial statement in ten seconds, done, reconciled, and ready to go. Wow! That sold me on computers and I’ve used them ever since for everything I do.

Within a few months I owned one myself and put my accounting on it. I also put by family history data on it and started writing my first novel.

Wasn’t technology wonderful? And remember, in those days we had no idea where computing would go. This was new, a change from the way we were used to working. I adopted it very early and ran with it. Many businesses didn’t and soon fell behind those who did.

The lesson here is: don’t be afraid of new things. Those who take the risk and adopt new strategies and ideas are the ones who will succeed.

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