A long time ago in a land far far away, well a couple of hundred miles, I discovered a great love – passion even, that was to change my life completely forever.
As the seventies drew to a close I was fortunate enough to get a job in a major publishing house, and even more fortunate to become part of a team working on the Electrical and Electronics stream of publications. These included all sorts of weird and wonderful titles, the like of which you might see at the end of ‘Have I got News for You’. Of course, at that time, our systems were not computerised. As a Production Executive I had to log everything in handwriting in huge, difficult to manage log books, and design the layout of each issue of each publication using paper and glue (Cow Gum – could get us all high pretty quickly if we gave it a chance!).
Anyhow, it was during that time that I was given charge of the publication that was to plant that seed of love in me – Computer Weekly. Computer’s were pretty new fangled and of course it was pre-windows, so I imagined such things were out of my reach, but because of the nature of the magazine I was able to get my hands on a machine in the editorial department every now and then, and use some spurious reason to get one of the team to show me how to do something or other. All very basic MS DOS stuff, but I really looked forward to those short sessions where I could use a keyboard and something on a screen happened.
But before long, I became a mum, and that job fell by the wayside, and although I continued in magazine production I was no longer involved with the computer industry in any way.
We moved ‘up North’, the kids grew, I needed a job, but by the time of the mid-nineties it was clear that employers were increasingly looking for some IT skills in their new recruits. So I signed up for a scheme that had been set up locally and set about gaining an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) in Information Technology. Oh, how I loved it! It made sense. It clicked. It was an epiphany for me. Had computers been around at school when I was a kid I would have actually been good at something, instead of bad to so-so at everything. I progressed easily and quickly.
Despite being very strapped for cash, we invested in a shiny new computer as a ‘family’ Christmas present one year, and I was able to find my way around it and teach my daughters a bit too. I landed a job, initially working from home, running a small membership organisation. And the rest, as they say is history. The organisation grew and grew, I became, through necessity, and to my delight, involved in everything from building databases, designing and managing websites, finance programmes, document production and everything in between. And as it was a committee-led national organisation, everything was done ‘virtually’ so there was no IT support to rely on. I quickly learned how to solve problems and keep clunky machines moving. The more challenging the problem the more I loved it. I found I have a very natural, gut response to computer’s that give me grief – you shall not defeat me!! And generally they don’t. Tsk…that’s probably the kiss of death, I’m waiting for my screen to freeze now..
Anyhoo, now I’m retired, my love affair with my laptop, ipad and phone is still as strong as ever. I am an addict. ! I thought that nothing would delight me more than finding new ways of using them be it a fantastic website or a useful programme. Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in love ’em all!
But I’ve found a new outlet for my passion.
Recently I noticed an advert in a local magazine for volunteers to help out as Tutors teaching older people IT skills. And for the past month I’ve been going along to the classes and sharing some of my excitement and enthusiasm. It’s hard work. Some have very little in the way of keyboard skills. Some are a bit better, but find it all very confusing, and some are downright scared.
Yesterday, one lady was sitting staring at her screen looking very glum indeed. I asked her if she needed some help.
‘I hate it’ was all she said.
‘What do you need it for’ I asked.
‘I’m on a church committee and they keep sending stuff to each other, and they want me to write newsletters and things and I can’t. I feel like a twerp’ she said, almost in tears.
I was able to give her a pep talk and show her where we were up to in the class and she was so much happier at the end. I told her I was the complete opposite of her. How I loved how I could do practically anything on here – heck, I can even do sums. Me! Doing maths! Well, of course it’s not me, its my spreadsheety friend. I hope I can pass on some of the love to at least some of the group and that they learn, like I did, that IT is there to help. It’s a whole world of wonderfulness – not just the internet, but just being able to look at photos easily, keep a christmas card list, write a journal, keep track of your money, keep notes (love Evernote!) oh, and of course, do sums……
I realise, that, in my age group at least, I seem to be in the minority. Lots of people find the whole concept frustrating and unfathomable. I feel privileged that it makes sense to me. Its not that I’m clever, its just how my brain works. I’m a lucky one.