The Evils of (fill in the blank)

Ever been witness to a Mac v. PC um, discussion? (yeah, I know, usually ends in body blows, but we’ll go euphamistically, shall we?) Or sat in on a session of the evils of MS Word? Or Dell? Or  . . .  (this is the part where you fill in the blanks).

It doesn’t have to be about computers or software. Could be about cars (Chevy v. Ford) or beer (Coors v. Budweiser) or game consoles (Xbox v. Playstation v. Nintendo) or peanutbutter (chunky v. smooth–though I have to admit I was going to write salmonella-filled v. healthy, but okay, we know who the winner is on that one).

I’ve witnessed many of these battles, and participated in some. But when it comes to computers and software, I only hate the ones that don’t work when I need them to (like right now when my campus web is offline and I desperately need access, but that’s another rant). Mostly I love my PC with Word when it works like a charm and quickly and I therefore don’t notice it at all because it’s functional. Likewise my Macbook Pro.

See, I am old enough to remember the days of the typewriter and writing my college papers on one. (sound of gagging). Then came along the 286 and that wee little mac in the computer labs–forgetting the name right now. They were MIRACLES. Seriously. Miracles. Home computing. And the net! and Email!!!

Computers and printers changed everything for me. Sort of the way peanut butter must have changed the lives of the toothless folks it was designed for (seriously, it was).

Here’s a memory of typerwriters (mine was a manual portable one, too. Great when the electricity went out, but not that easy to write on). I remember having to put in that line counter sheet with each page so I didn’t screw up the bottom margins. I remember whiteout (I used to spill that crud so often, not to mention how it dried out just when I went to use it). I’m a reasonably good typist (I even worked as a typesetter for awhile), but always there was something that didn’t work. I remember changing a thought and having to retype a page or two. And you have no idea how hard it is to procrastinate with a typewriter.

With computers, I compose on the screen. This gives me an odd sort of permission to blather stupidly because I can just cut and paste or delete and I don’t lose the work of a typewritten page! I can print multiple copies (yes, I remember carbon paper, too). I can revise something that I finished long ago without having to retype the damned thing. And I’m a minimal user. People I know can cook pancakes with the things.

So. What have computers done for your writing life? And/or: What do you remember about typewriters? Or your first computer experiences?

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  1. 1. SMD

    Computers have done two things for me:
    1. Made writing faster, more efficient, and better for me. I have easier access to dictionaries, spellcheck software, thesauri, etc. With a click of a button I can find anything I need on the net, etc. It’s made it super easy for me to be physically accurate when I use locations I am not personally familiar with (I can instantly find streets, cross streets, buildings, etc.).

    2. It has made it really easy for me to procrastinate. I don’t write fast by hand (I like writing by hand, but only when it’s a story that comes slowly). So I always write on the computer, but that means I have the net, twitter, MSN, Skype, and all else at my fingertips, waiting to draw me away from the writing. I admit that it is the single most powerful influence on me as far as procrastination goes. And it’s something I’m battling with, primarily because the net makes me procrastinate at EVERYTHING…it’s bad news.

    So, I think in some respects it’s great, but in other respects it is really bad. It all depends. Once I get the hang of forcing myself to not use the net all the time, then I’ll be in business.

  2. 2. Bradley Robb

    I think computers, and typewriters before them, have made my writing legible and improved my spelling. Beyond that, and the above commenter’s note on procrastination, computers have given me exposure.

  3. 3. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    SMD: I’ve always been a master procrastinator. The computers given me different options to do that while appearing to work, but I have never been at a loss for ways to do it :)

    Bradley: Exposure to procrastination–sounds a bit viral to me . . . .

  4. 4. Kelly McCullough

    They have allowed me to become a published author. No computers=no Kelly McCullough books.

  5. 5. --E

    I miss my old manual typewriter. I was more productive in those days (though whether it was the typewriter or my youth is arguable).

    I still have the typewriter, actually, an old Olivetti Valentine. It’s almost as old as I am, and was the Macintosh of its day, for the cool, anti-corporate styling.

    (Crap. I’m now experiencing a panic moment. DO I still have it? I moved last year. I don’t know if the typewriter made it with me!)

  6. 6. Matthew Milson

    I often think that if it were not for computers, I never would have even considered being an author. And I tend to think that is true of most people. It is difficult to try and imagine how much more work would go into writing a book without the ease (in most cases) of word processors.

  7. 7. S.C. Butler

    I’m with Kelly on this. I rewrite so often that I’d never have gotten anything truly finished on a typewriter. And I still can’t type correctly because I was too much of an unco to ever hit the right manual typewriter key hard enough. I always hit two or three of the keys around it instead.

  8. 8. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    Kelly: I know exactly what you mean.

    –E: I have an old manual. I want to get rid of it, but my husband is keeping it despite me. He thinks I’ll need/want it. It’s some sort of Sears model I think.

    Matthew: I tend to think the same thing about me.

    Sam: I should have owned stock in wight out. Wite out? Something?

  9. 9. David B. Coe

    I remember getting a typewriter when I went to college. That was the big gift. I’d used the family Smith-Corona all through high school. But when I left home I got a brand new S-C electric. By the time I left college I was doing all my work in the University mainframe computer, typing stuff up in a computer lab and then walking across campus to the computing building to pick up my printed pages, which were handed over to me in shrink-wrap….

Author Information

Diana Pharaoh Francis

Diana Pharaoh Francis has written the fantasy novel trilogy that includes Path of Fate, Path of Honor and Path of Blood. Path of Fate was nominated for the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award. Recently released was The Turning Tide, third in her Crosspointe Chronicles series (look also for The Cipher and The Black Ship). In October 2009, look for Bitter Night, a contemporary fantasy. Diana teaches in the English Department at the University of Montana Western, and is an avid lover of all things chocolate. Visit site.

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