Juan Manuel Grijalvo - Computers as Ring-like devices
(First published in 'Beyond Bree', May 1996)
Computers are Ring-like devices. You must pour into them a fair measure of your native vigour to master their little ways and, after this has been achieved, the machines are supposed to enlarge your abilities no end. They won't make you invisible and your lifetime will not be longer, but they are wonderful tools to perform many chores that would otherwise burden our minds.
Now my old Amstrad is a desktop PC with 640 Kb of RAM and it works only when attached to a wall socket, so you cannot use it while you fetch your daughter from school. Rather, you lock it in a back room to keep it safely out of the little darlings' reach.
I was born on 7th September 1954. The Psion was my gift to myself in my fortieth birthday. It is precious to me, and has done much to help me overcome the feelings caused by reaching this ripe age.
My Psion has a built-in set of programs in 1 Mb of ROM, 512 Kb of RAM, gets its energy from two 1.5 V batteries and weighs about half a pound. Mine is a bit heavier because I got two optional memory packs of 512 Kb each. Even so, I can easily carry it in my hands and push the keys with both thumbs; crude but effective. It has a most convenient system to handle files. The built-in applications are very easy to use and yet surprisingly powerful. It comes with a data file manager, word processor, agenda, alarm watch, world information, calculator, spreadsheet, sound recorder, and programming language. You can get many other applications besides. There are also links to printers, other computers, faxes, modems, diskette drives, barcode readers, and the list is growing all the time. It has given me a lot of service and fun.
Since you always have it near you (I carry it in a belt holster) the Psion is an endearing little thing and I would say that some owners may develop an attachment to the machine, bordering the sort usually reserved to pets. I have joined the User Group and a topic of perennial interest is, which batteries are the best to feed it? You must watch the signs of battery weakness; you must perform your backups; and you must never, never, drop it to the ground or sit on it. It wants a methodical care, rather like that given to a small animal: is it hungry? Is it properly fed? Is it brushed up? And when it misfunctions, you are irrationally worried: is it sick, perhaps?
It has enabled me to write so many things that I wanted to write that I have begun to write them all, so I have started some two hundred differents tasks and, since the machine allows you to add notes to any file very easily, I have finished just a few. Not very often, I get a bit of control upon myself, and so I work for some hours at a stretch to get a letter printed, signed and mailed.
In Spanish, as in French, Italian, German, or Latin, most inanimated things have a grammatical gender. The English had the excellent idea of dispensing with nearly all of this, so you can confidently say that a man is "he", a woman is "she", and most sexless things are "it". Not always, because a cat or a ship are "she", same as the U.S. "is". Now Spanish computers are "male". Perhaps this makes it easier to think of my Psion as a "he". You cannot underestimate the influence of linguistic clichés over human thought...
My very first computer was this one:
Sharp PC 1211 CE, complete with printer...
Los ordenadores son como el Anillo Único (My Spanish translation)
Back to Mellon...