i am trying really hard to get back in the mindset to write those stupid graduate school applications and in order to start thinking about it, i started thinking about how i learned to love a computer… but then i realized that i hate them, still… anyhow, this was the rambling that ended up coming out. now, it is _not_ going to be used in my application but it sure is funny to read… tehehe.
How I Learned to Love the Computer, and Then Return to Hating It.
As a child, I despised computers. I saw them as objects that took up time in a non-social and boring manner. Either you played games on them or you wrote papers. There seemed to be no other point to having a computer, so I pretended that the computer did not exist.
I could not avoid the computer for very long. Schools started requiring you to type papers, either on a typewriter or a computer, and the computer was easier. But it was middle school that forced me to use the computer. Lego Logo. Our entire class was taught how to make this “turtle” move on a piece of paper in the middle of a class using simple commands that we inputted into the computer. Knowing how much I loved math, the teacher tried to motivate me by showing me how I could display interesting mathematical concepts using these simple inputs. I made my own fractals and found interesting ways to do animations. Suddenly, something about computers interested me! But that class ended and we were back to games and typing and I was bored. I even cheated on my typing-skills test, promising myself that I would never learn to type “right”.
At home, my brother adored the computer and my mother purchased one to amuse him. He loved the games and he collected electronic toys that interacted with the computer. I continued to ignore this “revolution.” At one point, my mother agreed to pay $29.95 per month for him to have an 8600 baud connection to “the Internet” for 12 hours per week. I don’t remember how I learned that this meant a connection to other people, but I did. Suddenly, computers had a new meaning to me, once again. Computers did not have to take away one’s community or eliminate socialization; instead, computers could allow you to have an enhanced way of communicating with other people, through space and time. That is when my addiction started. Every night, I jumped on to various chatrooms and irc channels and emailed random strangers in an attempt to make new friends. My school friends started joining me and we had deeper conversations than we had ever had in real space. The computer allowed me to actually share emotions and feelings with other people in a healthy manner. It allowed me to connect to people like me as well as those who weren’t. At this point, my addiction started because the computer had a purpose.
Although the computer allowed me to connect to people, I realized pretty quickly that what existed was pretty underdeveloped and non-stable. But, in my mind, it was a damn good start. In college, I decided to major in computer science, to further this newfound interest. My first class in computer science captured my attention, as I learned to make the computer allow for interaction between the user and the computer. This made me realize how much control I had over what it displayed me and I fell in love with the discipline and the way of thinking. No longer was I motivated to study mathematics; instead, I wanted to make the computer do things that could never be done before. I took more and more computing classes.
Unfortunately, the followup courses were not similar to the introductory course. While the introductory course focused on ways of thinking and ways of interacting with the system, the following courses focused on elements of the computer – how it worked (machine level, assembly), how to design programs for it and make them efficient (data structures, operating systems, graphics), what the theory behind the machine is, etc. This bored me to tears!
I realized that it was not the machine that I loved, but rather the possibilities that the computer acknowledged. I wanted to be a part of the group who made technology further our potential as humans, further our connections with one another and study the ways in which we, as people, think. The computer is a tool and it has offered us a future; it has given us a new way of thinking. Now, I want to move beyond those basics and allow for the technology to not be a separate thing but an ingrained, ubiquitous element of our daily culture, there to help us reach our full potential.