It's 2011. That's progress for you...

When I was a kid, 2011 was science fiction. We'd all have personal jet packs, robot servants and colonies on Mars.  Instead, we've got Facebook and  iPhones. Harlan Ellison is selling his first typewriter, a Remington made in the late 1930s.  Kodak stopped making the chemicals needed to develop its famed Kodachrome color film, and the last batch was finally used up by Dwayne's Photo in, appropriately enough, Kansas.  My six year old iMac that's been clugging along since it was state-of-the-art oh so long ago (2004) blew out its logic board, and now I've got a new 27" screen with an Intel Core i7 processor that should be the coolest desktop Apple makes until probably this spring.

I don't know if anyone may be interested in buying my old Kaypro II, though it's not for sale, and, besides, I'm not Harlan Ellison so what would be the point.  It was one of the earliest "portable" computers, weighing in at something like 9 pounds,  It had a 9 inch screen that displayed green characters on a black background, and a dual 5 1/4 inch floppy drive.  You'd stick the program (word processor, database manager, a couple of games more primitive than Pong) in the top drive, and save your files to the bottom drive.

My first word processor was PerfectWriter, which didn't quite live up to its name (but, then, nothing ever really is perfect).  That relationship didn't last,  any more than my personal relationships did at the time, when I fell in love with WordStar  because I could depend on printing out exactly what I saw on screen instead of keeping my fingers crossed with PerfectWriter that the print out would vaguely resemble the way I thought I had formatted it.  I believe WordStar was the first WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) program.  For years I resisted the switch to Microsoft Word until I could no longer be out-of-step with the corporate hordes.  At the same time, I had to give up my beloved Kaypro II (currently residing in a closet along with all my other obsolete techno-junk).

Once upon a time, in my early youth, I actually composed on both manual and electric typewriter, so  I know how to type.  Consequently, I tend to still use keyboard commands rather than mouse clicks.  For Windows users, that means some keyboard combination of the CTRL key with another letter or character.  Today, things are better now that Word (and its various web emulators) is the de facto standard since you don’t have to worry about writing a document in a format that’s incompatible with someone else’s program back in the ancient days when a thousand word processors bloomed. However, there’s a lot not to like about Microsoft Windows, which is why I joined the Mac cult.  Guess what?  The CTRL key function doesn’t work the same, you have to use Apple’s Command key, instead, so I had to get used to a whole new way of keying a program command.  I use my thumb.

These days, the only way a new generation seems to produce text is with their thumbs, on tiny keyboards that in many cases lack real pushable keys, and faster than I can do with 10 digits on a full-sized keyboard.

We've become a culture of all thumbs.  Who'd have thunk it back when we were dreaming of maids on Mars?

That’s progress for you.

Happy new year.

End-of-the-Year Update

I just completed a short technical writing gig for SAIC, a military contractor based here in Charlottesville, developing software documentation for a new product that enables military analysts to tag, comment, and map streaming surveillance video.  Technical writing isn't really writing, it's delineating steps precisely and consistently.  A high tolerance for tedium is also a must-have. Most tech writers I know couldn't write headline copy if their lives depended on it.  Still, it pays well (sometimes better than writing headline copy) and in the freelance world an opportunity is an opportunity, particularly these days.  

I just read Sara Gruen's Ape House, which was fairly enjoyable, so I picked up her earlier novel, Water for Elephants, which I'm also liking.  Apparently Gruen took up novel writing after getting laid off as a technical writer!  So, there's an exception to every rule.  Or, what do I know?

I've never attempted a novel, but have published some short stories in various obscure publications.  I have a piece called "Backpacking" in the upcoming third issue of Spectra magazine, to be on news stands (well not really, it's digital only) I'm not really sure when. 

I've always liked this story, but it got rejected more than my MasterCard (I'd like to take credit for that line, but I actually stole if from Jeffrey Ford who was describing a story he eventually published in Black Gate, which you may recall is the magazine where I contribute non-fiction pieces), so I'm happy that I finally found an editor with the good taste to print it (can you actually say "print" about a digital magazine?).  Anyways, as soon as I know when it will appear, I'll post the link here about how to purchase it (no, it isn't free, because they have to pay their authors so we can buy a couple cups of coffee at Starbucks with our remuneration).

You can find a list of my non-fiction and fiction, some with links to content, by clicking on the Senior Writer tab at the top of the page.

Happy New Year.  


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