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A Trip Down Memory Lane

Today is Day 3 of the 10 days to a better blog challenge and the topic is all about The Writer's Environment.   What is your writing space like, what rituals do you go through, and so on.

I can't bear to write about my space because it's a complete and utter mess. My writing space is also my home office, where I do the books, payroll, filing and the like for the bakery. Well, kinda.  I haven't filed anything since Thanksgiving and hadn't really done any book work in a month either.  So my office was a sty. Major cleaning was required.

It took a good couple of hours to get to where I could see a work surface, but once I got the momentum going I was really into cleaning.  Next up:  the bakery file system.  That needs cleaning too, but I needed to figure out how to print a list of all the folders in the file system.  How do I do that in Windows 7?

I Googled a solution and it turns out that I can do it the same way I could when I was 20.  The good old DOS "DIR" command.  Ahh, DOS.  I haven't seen the lovely C: prompt in years!  And wow was it quick!  No windows, no icons, just a fast, complete data stream.  I spilled it to a text file, printed it out and I was set to cull. A simple command did the job.

I was inordinately happy.  That simple command line, short command, with switches even, took me back to my youth and my first days as a programmer.  It really got me reminiscing...

One of my first 'professional' jobs was as a Co-op student at SaskTel, back in 1986.  I would configure and install PC's in peoples offices.  Back in those days, PC's were expensive -- $3000 or more, heavy, and they didn't do much.  But if you had Lotus 1-2-3 you could run spreadsheets.  WordPerfect let you write reports (typically business cases to buy more personal computers!) And if you had DataEase you could build a full on database application.  Just memorize the function keys and all the commands and go!

Lotus 123 launch screen

Back then, if you were stuck on a problem you couldn't just Google an answer. There weren't even "Dummies" books.  Everything there was to know was in the big, bulky manual.  Or even a set of them.  Every cubicle had a shelf above the computer desk that was full of manuals for every software package on the computer and they weighed more than the computer.  Including the Operating System.  And the only real operating system was DOS.

I remember so clearly how I'd comb through the back of the manual, looking for the command, or series of commands I needed to get my computer to do what I wanted it to do.  Sometimes it would take hours but it was necessary and so much fun too.

IBM PC and the several volumes of DOS documentation

And I very clearly remember all the support calls we'd get from users who wouldn't read their manuals.  They'd never even take the shrink wrap off! Instead they'd call 4135 (how can I still remember that number?!) and we'd answer their question.

(My favourite all time call didn't have anything to do with the manual -- a lady called because she missed the disk slot -- she'd stuck her floppy disk between the drive and the computer housing!)

With my computer today I can do amazing things.  I can write this post and instantly publish it to the world, while listening to the Australia - India Test in the background.  I can edit pictures in seconds and even record a video of me typing if I want.  All in seconds, from my tiny basement office on the frozen Canadian prairies.  But these days I'm always looking for the easiest, best way to do everything within the top 5 Google search results.  I miss the feeling of digging and digging to find the right command to do the simplest of things.

So I think Day 11 of this 'blogging' challenge might just be taken over with Day 1 of the 'Learn Python (or Ruby, or Javascript) in 10 Days' challenge.

I'll be sure to write all about it.