Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Download/Upload (11/17/11)
TITLE: The Words of Time
By Brian Passe
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Until copy machines became prevalent, we made multiple copies of written reports on mimeograph machines. Those clunky devices were operated by manually cranking a drum to print each sheet. I can still smell the thick, dark blue ink that inevitably soiled many white shirts. Then came the invention of the century, at least we thought so, when Xerox made the photographic copy machine. The new machines made endless copies of documents placed on a clear piece of glass. Even after other companies made similar machines we continued to call any copy a Xerox copy.
Computer technology gives us many words that make sense only in the context of electronics. We fix code by de-bugging a program. Floppies are flexible disks and not shoes or hats. A crash can occur without a car and Windows is a software system rather than a pane of glass. We used to ask if it was “IBM compatible” without understanding what “it” was. With the expansion of the internet a web became a site which did not involve a tangled story. Today everyone sends e-mail and I still cannot figure out why I should tweet on Twitter.
In the early days of personal computers it was common to “download” from a disk. This made sense since the disk was usually above the “hard drive.” I have no idea why it is a hard drive. I could’t imagine it being soft or mushy. Maybe hard drive just sounds better than mushy drive. Once we loaded our floppy into the “drive slot” we waited for the computer to read the disk. We knew it was ready when C: appeared on the screen. One thing we were told never to do was format the C: drive. That was a no-no unless you worked for the IT department. Back to the download. Instructions were important because you had to type in the exact code to get the software to download. If your machine was “IBM compatible” it was usually easy. If you bought it from the lowest bidder you usually had a problem.
Uploading and downloading are descriptions that have survived the changing technologies. We download books from the internet and upload pictures to our photo gallery. Nothing is going up or down, it’s just moving things from one place to another. The power and progress of the words download and upload are shown by not saying, “I Xeroxed a file to my website.” That would really be confusing.
My grandson turned three years old in November. He is beginning to speak clearly but I wonder if I will be able to understand him in ten years. His father is a wizard when it comes to computers. He knows, however, not to attempt and explanation of what he did to fix my computer. I use my computer everyday to send e-mails, read news on websites, type stories and edit photographs. If my dad were alive he would just shake his head and say he prefers a pen to write letters and a phone to call me when he wants to talk. Someday my grandson may just shake his head when his grandpa tells him about the good old days when e-mail was e-mail and you typed every word. I can only imagine how we’ll communicate when he’s old enough to spell.
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