Tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine

My first computer was a Coleco® Adam.

Coleco_ADAM_Video_Game_Consoles_2187e4b4-fc21-4727-9e2d-3a13e99ab9eb
You had to write the programs, type them into memory and save them on a tape drive that looked just like an audio cassette. I loved it. Mostly I used it as a word processor cuz I had a program for that, and I was in college so it was really handy for papers, etc. That was 1983. I LOVED it. I wrote other programs for it – games and other easy things – and I spent hours on it. I had it for a long time.

My next computer, after college, was an Apple IIc. I got a bank loan to buy it and an ImageWriter printer.

I had a 5 1/4″ and a 3.5″ floppy drive for it. No hard drive. No mouse. I LOVED it. I used it for years. I ordered software by mail from catalogs – Broderbund, mostly. The screen was all text, no images, of course, but it was awesome. I used it everyday to write stories and balance my checkbook and play games. I had it for a long time. At work, I used an Apple IIe:

Apple IIe

It had a modem and that was the first time I used email. I’m guessing that was about 1986 or ’87. I still have that computer and the modem. Up to that point we had used a Telex machine. Remember those? Yes, Virginia, there was a time when fax machines and email didn’t exist!

I got a modem for my IIc at home and learned how to connect to our local college’s BBS system and email, then later ftp. After that, things moved pretty quickly. I bought a Mac and joined eWorld, which was Apple’s online system, then AOL. Then finally, we had access to an reasonably inexpensive ISP here in my little town, and I had access to the WWW. Text at first, and then Netscape (1994) came along and the internet as we now know it started to take shape.

I had a series of Mac Performas, and then a Windows laptop and then a series of Windows towers and laptops. Early on I had a business designing websites (starting in 1995) and my own website for my business, which became a personal website after my business failed in 2000. In 2003 I started a blog on Journalspace, called Friday’s Child.

I LOVED blogging. I had always journaled on paper and loved writing, and now other people could read what I wrote! And comment! And I read what they wrote and we were a community! Sadly, Journalspace died, so I started a blog on my website using WordPress software. I don’t remember what it was called. Since then I’ve written 2 other “special project” blogs – not for public consumption – and I started this WordPress.com blog in 2008 after scuttling my website.

So, now, here we are. Why did I force you to go on that trip down Tech Memory Lane with me? Well, cuz I think it’s interesting, for one thing. A revolution in the way information is deciminated in a VERY short time historically. I was a part of it, in the way my mom can remember when there was no TV and my grandmother could remember when there was no radio.

Cool.

My geeky brain recognized the importance and potential of computers when I was young, and I have always been excited to be a part of the evolution of computer use and the internet. For all its imagined evils, the internet is an amazingly empowering thing. The blogsphere, especially, represents a revolution in the world of communication and information transfer among human beings in the last 20 years, and I’ve loved being a part of it.

As a writer, I’ve benefited enormously. I can publish whatever I want online whenever I want. That was not true even when I was in college – in order for a writer’s  (or singer or movie maker or artist) work to be available to “the masses” he/she would have to pass through a publishing gatekeeper. Editors and movie producers and record producers held all the keys and could decide who “got in” and who didn’t.

For writers and photographers and artists, blogging has caused a dramatic shift in what it means to be successful. I won’t ever be published by a big house, or even a paper magazine, probably, but I’ve connected with 100s of people over the years through my writing, and that’s what matters to me.

Community is hard-wired into the human brain. The explosion of the internet – a network of networks – is remarkably like our brains in the way connections are formed and likeness is sought. We want to connect to others who are like us and the internet allows us to do that without physical presence. I can connect to the world sitting in my living room typing on my laptop.

As a young person, I didn’t know anyone who struggled with depression. Even though I knew a lot of people in high school and college, I didn’t know anyone who dealt with a mental illness in the way I did. I didn’t know I had a mental illness – something that was known and had a name. I just thought there was something really wrong with me and I found ways to manage life and stay alive in spite of it. On my own. I had friends, but I was really alone. I did everything I could to try to appear as normal as possible.

It was exhausting and lonely.

That changed when I got on the internet. I found information and found out I was not alone and that yes, there was something wrong with me, but it wasn’t my fault. It isn’t a character flaw,  There are other people who feel like I do. 

What a revelation! When I started writing my blog and started really being myself online, I connected with people who were more like me than anyone I had ever known, and who supported me as I supported them. Through my blog and blogging friends I found other resources online that were helpful – groups and forums. It changed my life in that it changed who I believed I was. 

Online I was a writer and people liked me as I really am, not as I pretend to be to fit in in daily life. Anonymity is a two-edged sword online, though, and that’s where social media runs into trouble. People misrepresent themselves all the time, and that’s too bad, even if their intent isn’t criminal.  Because the real power in the internet, and especially in blogging, is in really being able to be yourself and to connect to others like you – as we really are. Mask off, warts and all. Here I am, world! Anybody out there?

Yes, we’re out here. Ready to reassure you, ready to know you as you really are. No need to hide. Not here. Be yourself, tell us about yourself and we will welcome you. Tell your story. Post your photos, your art, tell us about your dreams and your failures. Make us laugh, make us cry, make us feel who you are and what you’ve been through. What has the experience of life on this planet been like for you? Tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine and we’ll discover that we’re not so different after all, and that we are not alone. 

And that will make all the difference.

Thanks, Jenny, for the reminder.

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