I pick up things, like flypaper picks up flies!

Notes from Alexis: Some pretty funny statements about learning computers!


Dearest Lex,

How are you? I enjoyed thinking about you driving home after work your last day with special Mobility and experiencing profound relief. Onward and upward, right?

I have a long story about writing and computers, which I will no doubt call “Lost in the Wilds of Computer Writing,” when I write this adventure up. I went to town Thursday and saw a sign on the fairgrounds that said, “Computer Sale May 18th & l9th. What’s a computer sale? I couldn’t stand it, so we went. Well, I won’t keep you in suspense. I believe that the local computer club got together and decided to dump a lot of their stuff. One of the people there was L.M., the owner of the store where I got my Kaypro computer. He also handles a lot of other brands.

He’s like an electric light. When he thinks you are a potential customer, he glows, and when he sees you aren’t, he goes out. I have never seen anyone quite like him. But we all have our little scams, and mine is getting information, so I pretend a gullibility and innocence, that I don’t really possess. My artifice is just not as visible as his.

He was out to make a sale, and I wanted information. I told him that I was writing a Manual for Datastar, and he tried to sell me a great software package ‘Pearl Data’ normally selling for $295 and on sale for only $95 at that moment. He really loved me there for about ten minutes, as I seemed interested.

I sat down and looked through the manual, and for all I know ‘Pearl’ may be the greatest thing since pockets on undershirts, but the manual left a lot to be desired. It didn’t answer any of my questions, and didn’t show me where to find the answers. Now I’m not talking about a ‘training’ manual like I’m writing, or ‘tutorial’ as the computer folks say, but a ‘technical manual’, which should tell all.

He told me that he thought Datastar was peaking as far as sales, and that 95% of the buyers are Kaypro owners. He also said I should talk to S. at his store, because she is their ‘educator’, and could look at my manual and tell me if I was doing it right.

Did you feel the temperature rising in my brain? S. is the one who educated me for 45 minutes, with phone’s ringing, and customers asking questions, and office workers chatting. I didn’t like her approach of ‘push this and push that’, although I did like S. She is a YUPPIE in a lovely sort of way. (Read ‘Power Play’ by Mary Cunningham). I love Yuppies. Although they aren’t as interesting as hippies, but they are CLEAN.

I realized that L.M. didn’t know a whole lot about Datastar, from what he said, and he realized I wasn’t going to buy, so our love affair ended rather abruptly.

I came home despondent. Who wants to write a manual for a software program that is obsolete before the book can be published? Rather like writing a sales manual for the Edsel car. I wrung my hands and whined, stomped and swore terrible oaths. Dad endured.

Then finally I worked it all out. I will finish ‘Guide’ because:

(A) It is the fun-est thing I had done in a long time and

(B) I still need to learn things about Datastar/ReportStar.

I asked myself if I would want to make a career of writing manuals, and gee that sounded great! Do you suppose there is a Manual Writers Guild? Could I start one?

“What if?” I asked myself, “What if some perspicacious (I looked this up) publisher wanted me to write a manual for other software programs, would I?” Could I resist? Sounded fine, so I have to learn how to write manuals somewhere, and why not with what I’ve got? Maybe I’ll get turned down by all the publishers, and maybe one of them will remember me for another project.

‘Spring came to Gwen’ at the thought, and I was back in business. That’s why we optimists are so unbearable. We can turn every disaster into gold. I mean it is just too tiresome to tell your troubles to an optimist. They will always see the bright side.

I felt quite cheery about the whole business, and Dad is laughing up his sleeve. He never takes my moaning seriously. He knows I will talk myself out of it sooner or later.
So here is another computer story. I wrote to TBKUG (Tampa Bay Kaypro Users Group, to you) and ordered two disks for $10 each, which contained two programs I wanted; a directory and disk cataloging system, and here they came in the mail. Two disks, and that was it. Nary a word, other than a form letter to order more. I went into a complete tizzy with sweaty palms and palpitations. It scared me to death!

But, like a good hacker, I immediately made copies (first rule of computing – MAKE COPIES) and I learned something from that; namely that they sent me single sided disks and my 2X uses double sided disks and can copy SD to DD. Neat, huh? Not all computers can do that. Boy, did I luck out with the 2X.

I could find the directory on each but I don’t have the know how to read the files (I think I just figured it out) so I put WordStar in and read with it. I just couldn’t believe they would send me software with no info, and info has to be typed, right? Sure enough, there it all was. Reams of lovely words, ready to be read by the human eye.

I spent the afternoon happily printing. Not reading, just printing. When I got around to reading, I found I had a ‘Bad Sector Lockout’ (WOW), a ‘Squeezer/Desqueezer’, a ‘Unerase’, and all kinds of super features for the directory and filing system. Talk about Christmas!

I will try out the ‘Bad Sector’ as I have a disk that won’t format. Three of the 30 disks I bought, wouldn’t format, so I twirled them briskly around my finger to realign their molecules, or something, and they formatted. My teacher (educator?) at the computer class did that. I pick up things like flypaper picks up flies.

Well, there you have my news, and hope your news is even more exciting.