The Evolution of a Technophobic
The word always sounded so forbidding,
inspiring images of mysterious and complex machines, huge pieces of cold metal
connected by masses of wires and cables, hundreds of buttons and flashing lights.
"Technology" looked and sounded so dangerous, something not to be touched unless
"you knew what you were doing." After all, touching a wrong button could cause it
to self-destruct, right?
The things around me-- televisions, radios, VCRs --
were never Technology (it was always capitalized in my mind, as if I were naming a
demon); those were simply things I used. Technology was different, something
foreign, not a part of my life at all. Nor did I want it to be. It seemed so cold
and impersonal. So unnatural. And so BORING...
In high school, computers became the exception to my
rule. There was no doubt that computers were Technology. The whole world was
saying so. And yet, there they were, close enough to touch- if I dared. I
didn't. True, they were fascinating, but they might self-destruct, and then I'd
REALLY be in trouble.
So I managed to avoid them until my senior year, when
I was required to take Computer Science in order to graduate. I spent that fall
dutifully learning to program an obsolete language, following instructions to a
tee, never touching a key I wasn't told to touch. It wasn't until my final
semester, in Creative Writing class, that I glimpsed the practical aspects of
computerdom. That's when I was introduced to the word processor.
It was love from the start. Imagine it - not having
to retype every draft! As a would-be writer, this was something I HAD to have. So
graduation rolled around and with it a brand-new PC. My brother set it up; I dared
not try it on my own. But there it was, joy of joys, my brand new word processor,
the now-obsolete Lotusworks. I spent the next twenty-four hours frantically and
happily typing in a year's worth of writing.
But I was a few days into computer ownership before
curiosity forced me to explore the other programs that had come installed on my
machine. There wasn't much-- DOS, which looked hopelessly complicated, and
That one looked interesting. My computer had come with a modem and a free trial
membership to "The Prodigy Online Service", whatever that was. But what the heck,
I was feeling brave. And before I knew it, I was "online".
And before I knew it, I was "online" a LOT. Prodigy
offered something too good for a shy, writer-type to pass up -- faceless
communication, via e-mail, with people from all over the country. It was
wonderful. That computer of mine, that cold, impersonal machine had become a
Over the next few years I "met" dozens of people I
came to regard as friends. People who shared my interests. People with whom I
could "talk" freely without getting self-conscious or toungue-tied. Many of those
people I've since met face-to-face, and we remain in regular contact.
But despite those hours upon hours spent typing away,
the technical side of computers remained a mystery I didn't care to explore. I
didn't care HOW it worked so long as it worked. The inside of my computer, the
Technology that made it all work, was still a little frightening. The thought of
opening the case and looking at its insides was on par with splitting myself open
to look at my own entrails. I was convinced that the machinery was so delicate
that the least disturbance by a non-expert (somehow it would KNOW I wasn't an
expert, even if I didn't touch anything...) would throw it into a mechanical
frenzy. So for years it remained simply a Black Box: I put information in, it
saved that information and spat it back at me when I asked, and we maintained a
congenial, if distant, relationship.
And it would have remained so had fate not
intervened. But in 1995 it happened that I met, and eventually fell in love with,
"a tech". And not just the kind of tech who likes to fiddle around with computers
in his spare time. I'm talking the professional, dyed-in-the-wool,
wouldn't kind of tech. And suddenly, whether I liked it or not, computers
(Technology) had become an integral part of my life.
What could I do? I could attempt to ignore that side
of him completely. (I've long since realized that the relationship would have
been rather short-lived in that case.) Or I could attempt to learn more about this
fascination of his. I chose the latter. After all, as a Psych major I'd learned
that simple exposure to something tends to make it less frightening. Very well- I'd
expose myself. ;)
That resolve, coupled with the assurance that there
was nothing I could break that he couldn't fix, allowed me a new freedom when
dealing with machines. I began to experiment more, to try things I'd been afraid to
Unfortunately, there was only so much I could try.
By this point my seven-year-old computer was hopelessly obsolete. It only
nominally qualified as Technology anymore. And finally, in the summer of '97, the
demon within "let go of the magic smoke" in a quite literal sense. (Even as
ignorant as I was, I realized that scorch marks on the case meant something really
But not to worry! Recall the techie boyfriend and the
spare computer parts! Within a week I had a brand-new (to me, at least- it was
actually a patchwork of scrounged and donated parts) 386 that would (miracle of
miracles!) run Windows. Not that I have a particular fondness for Windows, but I'd
long since accepted (albeit grudgingly) that no one writes cool software for DOS
anymore. So Windows it was.
And thus began the second phase of my evolution.
With Windows came a graphics program called Paintbrush-- very minimal, almost
useless for anything very complicated, but it opened up a new world of
possibilities. Just as, years ago, I had combined computers with a love of
writing, I now saw ways of utilizing computers for my other great love-- art. And
over the next few months merging the two became an all-consuming passion. I
downloaded and mastered every Windows 3.1 shareware graphics program in existence,
and acquired an early version of CorelDraw.
And then, thanks to a bit of luck and a LOT of help
from wonderful friends, we were able to gradually upgrade my machine. By October I
finally had a "real computer"! A computer that would run "real" software! And
that's when I discovered one of the wonders of the modern world-- Adobe Photoshop.
That's when my interest in graphics became something of an obsession, spending
hours upon hours manipulating images, trying to discover every trick this amazing
program can do. (And I've just scratched the surface so far...)
All of that was to be expected, I suppose. But the
UNexpected side effect has been an ever-growing interest in computers as a whole.
I can (and am willing to!) take the case off of my computer and identify all of its
innards, and even make minor upgrades and repairs. I can carry on relatively
intelligent discussions about RAM and ROM, bps rates and seek times, megahertz and
megabytes. I find myself initializing the computer-related discussions that were
once the bane of my existence. And I can occasionally even be found among the
hundreds of other crazy people on pre-dawn Saturday mornings, walking a crowded
parking lot in Dallas (known officially as the First Saturday Computer Sale)
looking for "deals" on hardware.