Staying in touch with computers

My English ancestors knew it might be more than a year before they heard that their loved ones arrived in the colonies of New England. My father’s parents expected us to call regularly when we moved from New York to Arizona. With a severely limited budget my parents supplemented phone calls with letters. For my mother’s mother, born in the 1890s phone calls meant earth shattering news. My mom would write her a letter setting up a time to chat long distance.
In the 70s I began reading about computerized word processing programs. I looked at the manual typewriter I used to misspell all my letters home. I was impressed. My husband looked at the $2,000 price tag and he was impressed. We didn’t buy one.
In the early 80s I took a couple computer courses. I said we should buy one. Computer capabilities had increased from the 70s. Their size and prices had decreased. For $1,000 we bought a printer and a portable, monochrome computer: The monitor, CPU and keyboard bundled up into a small awkward heavy suitcase.
I bought a $100 word processor program just for writing letters. Within a year my husband was monopolizing the computer time and memory writing stuff for his job.
Six years later we replaced that computer with a 286 and a color monitor. I’ve lost track of subsequent upgrade to our current Pentium. I just know we can produce letter perfect letters, zap e-mail notes to the family and manufacture greeting cards on the color printer.
I am not my grandmother: I take phone calls all hours of the day without notice. I especially like dropping my children a line via their e-mail accounts.
In August my son finished his out-of-state summer job determined to settle in the area. He had left his computer behind for the summer. He did not have a job, apartment, phone number or address. He had a permanent e-mail account, but hated paying by the minute at a public access terminal.
Although he called every couple days, I worried every night until he had a job, apartment and phone.
In September we filled the back of our mini-van with his computer, lounge char and books. He wanted to show us the city. His dad wanted to get that computer hooked up to the Internet.
Our visit stalled at the computer desk as son and father puzzled over a computer and modem that worked in El Dorado but would not respond in St. Louis. We left our frustrated son with advice to call the manufacturer’s help line again. HE called late Monday evening, “My modem is working!” He had fixed it by himself. He was warning us his phone line would be busy while he caught up on a back log of e-mail.
Our ancestors waited months for word of their loved one’ safe arrival in the New World. My New York reserved grandmother waited days to read that we were safely in Arizona. I paced the floors when I couldn’t instantly reach my son during his transition to Missouri.
Time is relative — especially when it comes to family.