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Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....

Goodbye, Old Friend
December 22nd, 1999

The time has come to say good by to an old friend. A special friend who has been with me through thick and thin, never criticized but frequently reminded me when I pushed too far, and provided countless hours of enjoyment. Who is this? It is really not a who, but rather a what. I have finally achieved my goal of getting an iMac. My Performa 560 no longer meets my needs. It's not fast enough, doesn't have a big enough hard drive, and can't use a lot of the current software. Ah, but we have had so many adventures together that will never be repeated. A friend recently pointed out to me that men frequently name their computers just like they do boats and cars, while women seldom or never do so. I certainly have never considered naming a computer (with the exception of the PC I use at work and frequently refer to as "you stupid PC") even though I have been known to carry on one-sided verbal conversations with my Performa. Even without a name this computer has played an integral part in my life the last 4 years.

If you are not familiar with a Performa 560 it is one of those all one pieces aimed at the education market. I believe the original design was for use in classrooms. It came to me second hand from a doctor's office. I don't know if he purchased it new or if he also got it as a used machine. It came into my life when my son traded some web page design work for the machine. At the last minute the doctor threw in the printer that went with it so I had all I needed. I had already been using Mac's both at work and at home, but never had one of my own.

Like many new users I tended to use the computer more like an expensive typewriter than a computer because it was all I knew. The first real adventure that the Performa and I had was discovering games. I purchased a solitaire game and a casino game and loaded them on my machine by inserting a floppy disk in the correct hole and then following the steps my son told me to follow. Fortunately they both worked on a 68030 because I didn't know what that meant or that it was something I should check. My Performa spent many patient hours with me as I played game after game after game. I was going through a tough time at that point and it helped to stay busy.

Our next adventure was getting a modem, a 14.40 I think it was and we were both so pleased with ourselves. Next my youngest daughter talked me into getting on AOL. What an adventure that was. I got tired of AOL real fast, but by then I had the courage to try the real internet and through my son, I signed up with a local internet provider. After several months I received a 28.80 modem for Mother's Day. My Performa accepted that and adjusted accordingly. I learned how to download stuff off the internet, how to use Stuffit, how to send and receive e-mail, how to sign up for additional e-mail addresses, how to find friends and how to attach things to e-mail. My Performa was there when I sent an e-mail to someone I cared about, but had not had any contact with for 30 years. My Performa received and gave me his reply. A reply that has significantly changed my life. My Performa was there when I learned how to use a computer program to make cards and when I learned how to make cross stitch patterns from photo's of my grandchildren. My Performa was there when I started writing this column. What an adventure that has been. My Performa was there when I created a family newsletter that goes out each quarter and when I did a genealogy search and created family trees for my children.

Next came a 56K modem. Just like the Little Engine That Could, my computer just kept on puffing away with each new task. It never broke down except when I did something wrong and it graciously responded to a software fix and kept on puffing. I became more and more demanding of the computer, trying more and more new things and loading it up with software, and downloads, and scanned pictures, and stored columns. Occasionally it chided me for asking it to do too much at one time by freezing up, but it always forgave me when I rebooted, and it kept on puffing. Our last great adventure was learning to make web pages. It took forever to open and work all those pages, save them, and open them and work them again, but we made it and not only do I have a web page, but I made one for my twin as well.

Of course, like everything, time is beginning to pass it by. I get software to review and I can't load it on the Performa. I try to download a program and I have to go away and give it lots of time to accomplish it. I try to surf the auction sites and it takes 10 minutes to download all the graphics on each page I try to review. Don't get me wrong. It still worked the word processing and the internet browser, and all the games, and everything else I tried to do, it just needs more time. I found myself getting impatient with it and turning it off in disgust. There are some internet sites that I will only visit at work because it just takes so very long to do it at home. So the new kid has arrived. Shiny green and new with all the latest options and gadgets. The modem is built in, all the new software will work, and it is truly fast. As much as I already enjoy the iMac there are adventures that we will never share because they have already taken place with the old faithful Performa.

So what will become of the old Performa who has worked so hard for me all these years? It's not done yet. Rather it is starting over - helping someone who has never used a computer learn the ropes. At this moment it has been shined up, and is sitting under my Christmas tree with a big red bow tied around it. It is going to someone who won't be so impatient with it, and who will love going through the discovery process. Someone who doesn't know the difference between a 14.40 modem and a 56K modem, and who will just accept the 56K without question once they get the courage to actually get on the internet. My son is giving it to my parents who are in their mid 80's. After several years of trying we (the family) got my father to sit down in front of the computer and touch the keys. My father spent most of his working life working with, and selling, typewriters, but the computer is so foreign to him. However, we were devious and talked him into trying some solitaire games. Then, when he discovered that the type font could be set at a very large size, allowing my mother to read what was on the screen, he was hooked. He doesn't yet understand how he can get the local newspaper to come up on a computer screen, but he is willing to take our word for it that it can. As far as I know, they have no idea they are getting the Performa or any other computer. My parents, like many people who grew up during the depression, are extremely reluctant to purchase anything they consider a luxury item and no one in my family is really financially able to give them a new one. However, they will actually be more inclined to use the Performa because it doesn't represent any kind of big purchase. I shall always be grateful to my son for getting me the Performa during a difficult financial time for him and to the Performa itself for working so diligently to do all I ask it to do. Goodbye old friend.

If you have any tips, suggestions, or other comments about this, or any other Mac topics, send them to me so that I can share them with other readers.

Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.

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Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.

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