Thursday, November 19, 2009

Romantic Fever

Welcome!    Velkommen!     ¡Bienvenido!     Salut!      أهلا وسهلا

I can still recall the first time I even gave a thought to having a computer in the home. I was in Detroit buying nylon rode plus dacron sheets and halyards for my sailboat, stuff was cheaper in the States. I caught an Apple II ad squeezed in between the steady stream of old Motown hits.

Why would anyone, I mean anyone, want a personal computer? Talk about stupid.

Then I went to a Canadian Industries Limited (CIL) open house and visited their "computer room." It was a relatively dust-free room, no carpets, with an air conditioning system specifically installed for the computers. The room had to be cool. And it was. It had a dozen Apple IIs running something called a VisiCalc spreadsheet.

Change the number in a square, called a cell, and a wave quickly rippled across the screen as all the numbers changed. These little computers were at the heart of the London CIL operation. They calculated financial projections and complex “what if” scenarios. I was awed.

When the Mac 128 came out, I bought a computer for the home. I did it while my wife was away. I set my baby up in the kitchen on one counter top and ran cables across the narrow room to the printer on the opposite counter. The Mac had 128KB of RAM,  a 64 KB ROM, a 400 KB floppy that didn't flop, it was encased in plastic and the best thing was the screen - run the word processor software, MacWrite, and the screen was like a window on a white sheet of paper with black type. It gave a WYSIWYG image. All I could say was WOW!

There was no going back. I had seen the promised land and it was populated with computers. My Underwood sits in the garage forgotten. My early favourite film camera hasn't been out of its box in years. My darkroom is now in a dark box. My World Books no longer reflect the world and sit shelved in the basement. Computers are everywhere and do everything.

A few years ago I decided to try and learn French and so I went back to school. I did O.K. I can now read French fairly quickly. Today I loaded a new beta version of Blogger software, and if I want to blog in French it is computer easy. Select the words, click on the Define / translate icon.

To put the words into French was as easy as select, point, click, copy and paste.
Pour mettre les paroles en français était aussi facile que pointer choisir, clic, copier et coller.

Let's try translating the same words from English to Spanish.

Para poner las palabras en francés era tan fácil como seleccionar el punto,, click, copiar y pegar.

Out of curiousity, if I went from English to French to Spanish and back to English. The result?

To put words in French was as easy as pointing to select, click Paste.

It got muddled in translation and yet to err is human. Someday, they'll get the human error out of the software. For now this software reminds me of my high school girlfriend. She was from Cairo and her mother tongue was not English.

She would enter a room and "open the lights." When she asked for a favour, she would start out, "I beg of you . . . " When she arrived in Canada she was asked her medical history. Rosy had had rheumatic fever as a child and replied, "I suffered badly from romantic fever."

I do hope they have the bugs out of the software soon. "Suffering badly from romantic fever," sounded much better when Rosy said it.

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