Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Technophobia 7


My dear father always said that when everybody had a telephone nobody would have any manners, because there wouldn’t be time for them. (Character in Patricia Wentworth’s The Chinese Shawl)

My mom literally retired from her job in 1993 (age 53) because she was going to have to learn to use a computer, and she refused. (Via FB)

Remember when choosing not to own a TV was considered cool? (@OhNoSheTwitnt) 

A colleague had to write a letter and then get the boss to sign it (in the 80s). He wrote it on the word processor. The boss (who was an ex-programmer) marked up some changes and gave it to his secretary, who re-typed the whole thing. (PD)

When I joined the civil service this century, the office I worked in still had a typing pool. They used to email round asking for us to send them things to be typed up... They were waiting for the typists to retire. Any that could be moved on to other tasks were, but there were still a few typists left for a while. (@beardybanjo)

The 10th level of Dante's Hell is reserved for Academics Of A Certain Age who do not BCC with 40 recipients. "Do I Reply All to tell them to stop Reply All-ing?" is the eternal question.
(Sarah Parcak @indyfromspace)

I helped type out some text in Word for a prof back in college incorporating some corrections from a printed sheet. Prof wanted some re-ordering of paras and I told him I will cut and paste but he was insistent that it has to be neat and clean. (Via Twitter)

I have a Twitter account, but I'm not 'on Twitter'.
I read it, but I don't reply or say anything.
Work tells me I've got to tweet about my articles.
I hate Twitter! I'm leaving this hellsite.
I'm still here.


Can anybody remember the unbelievable fuss when computers hit offices?
Fears of radiation from VDUs. Talk of "non-reflective” desks and special ergonomic workstations that never appeared. Scares over RSI, eyestrain. Instructions to take a break from the screen every hour. Union involvement. Deep suspicion that computers would make jobs more difficult, or unpleasant, or impossible.

Some roles, of course, disappeared, to be replaced by others. And some became far, far easier. No more Tippex! You could type as fast and as badly as you liked.

For too long, firms thought they didn’t need an IT department. They’d been sold the equipment and told that it would do everything. They wouldn’t spend anything on training, either. Some staff trained each other by swapping knowledge, and some were impervious. I used to sneak round after people had gone home and increase their mouse speed.

Another syndrome from those days: an organisation pioneeringly introduces computers but then doesn’t update the machines or the software for the next 30 years. And some people wouldn’t move on to more modern, better software because they’d struggled to learn their early, clunky package and expected all software to be the same.

Some were furious that they had to use new terminology. “Why do I have to ‘download’ something? Why can’t I just ‘get’ it?” They now have laptops and smartphones.

People used to say “How can you enjoy working on a computer? It’s all noughts and ones!” They thought everybody was programming their own computer from scratch – they didn’t know about software. They didn’t know what computers did (back then, mainly spreadsheets and word processing). Even if they used a computer they’d say wonderingly: “But why would you want to connect two computers together?” (So that nobody has to retype this document, that's why.)

Some had a great incuriosity about how anything worked, or colleagues' roles in the organisation. One didn’t even know there was a stationery cupboard. If you showed them how to do something on the computer, they'd say: "But I don't want to do that". After a software upgrade, they'd say: "I just want my computer to go back to how it was".

Times have changed, and now people talk about social media, smartphones and wifi as if they are somehow sinful or contaminating.

Times have changed, and it’s getting harder to have patience with the people who explain at great length the complicated ways they bypass Amazon, while claiming that their way is somehow “better”. Or else they'll buy a cheap refurbished smartphone and restrict its use to staying in touch with their elderly parents.

And social media is bad because people are addicted to likes thanks to dopamine, or somesuch nonsense.

It’s 2018 and some are still saying “Only idiots use social media and all they do is wibble”.

It's 2018 and people are still “losing a morning’s work”. Save your document every five minutes (using the keyboard shortcut), or set up autosave. And back up all your work in the cloud (Dropbox or similar). And don't keep the only copy of your PhD on a laptop. (Look at the menus – all the keyboard shortcuts are there.)

In 2018, an author wailed on Twitter that he’d lost his notebook at the airport containing the entire draft of his next book – after the worst hour of his life, it was found at Lost Property. He got plenty of helpful advice about saving and backing up. Oh no, he explained, this was a paper notebook, with the entire first draft written in longhand.

It’s 2019 and some are still hitting “reply all” when the original writer has CC’d instead of BCC-ing recipients. (And we’re still calling a copy of an email a “carbon copy”.)

It's 2020 and if you email out a document for approval, some recipients alter it and send it back, without flagging their changes. What if everybody did that? Do they think you can somehow merge all the versions? (Tip: Only send out PDFs.)

It’s 2020 and some still don’t know how to create a Twitter thread by replying to their own tweets.

It's 2020 and some don't know about Undo.

It's 2020 and they scroll through a PDF because they don't know you can search for a keyword (Apple or Control F).

It's 2020 and they don't know you can turn off notifications.

It’s 2020 and someone’s tweeting “I don’t really do the YouTube thing...”.

It's 2020 and an old friend says: I don’t use Facebook – at least, not yet.

In 2020: "I haven’t succumbed to a Kindle yet, but I’m tempted."

It's 2020 and some never watch TV because they don't know how to turn it on. (Ask your children.)

It's 2020 and people are still whingeing about text speak and uptalking. (Both about 20 years old.)

And now with Zoom meetings I have to sit and look at someone else's untidy desktop and not say anything.

It’s 2018, and there may just be some software that will turn a sound recording into a text file – 30 years after this was predicted.

Oh, so you go to your own FB page, look at your activity log and you can find all the conversations you’ve had recently... Well, well! And smartphones have a pull-down menu (it’s where they’ve hidden the torch)? Who knew?

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday, 20 September 2020

My Memoirs

So, you want to write your life story? An ordinary person’s autobiography is very unlikely to be published – but look at Sylvia Smith. She wrote about a life devoid of incident in a deadpan, direct manner that is both poignant and funny.

If your life has been unusual, if you can take the reader into an unfamiliar world, publishers are more likely to be interested. Give the reader the inside dope about life as a stripper, lumberjack, circus artiste, zookeeper, nun, butler, tutor to rich children, cab driver. Early struggles are more interesting than the record of a successful career. Joan Rivers ends the first volume of her autobiography on the eve of her big break.

It helps to keep a diary, or have a good memory, or both. Some people use Facebook as a “blog” about their lives – I would read a compilation. Books have been made out of diaries found chucked in a skip.

Be particular, not general. Recount specific incidents, rather than "Every day we..." or "We always..." or "Mother used to...". Junk adjectives like "wonderful, marvellous, amazing". Avoid clichés like “her smile lit up the room” or “she was a tower of strength”. Prune similes ("It looked like..."). You don't have to be “literary”. There's no need to exaggerate incidents until they become “amusing” anecdotes. (And don't borrow anecdotes from others and pretend they happened to you.)

Recall sounds, smells, textures. Give details such as brand names. Can you remember your first day at school? What games did you play outside at break? Who were your schoolmates? What did they wear? What was the pattern on the sitting-room wallpaper, your mother's apron? Margaret Forster recalls her mother getting a job during the war and being able to buy herself some smart clothes. What did you eat for lunch? Chef Nigel Slater describes his childhood and youth through food.

When you've finished your story, get it proofread by a professional. Once it's all shipshape, send it to an agent: they're listed in the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook. If none of them wants to take you on, or the agent can't interest a commercial publisher, you can still publish your book yourself (self-publishing) by uploading it to Amazon.  There are companies that promise to publish your book for a fee, making it available on Amazon and a few similar outlets, but this is not the same as commercial publishing. Your book will not be distributed to shops, or reviewed. They are what we used to call "vanity publishers".  Self-publishing is just as good!

Reading list
Sylvia Smith Appleby House
Betty Macdonald Anybody Can Do Anything
Joan Rivers Enter Talking
Jilly Cooper The Common Years
Margaret Forster Hidden Lives
Nigel Slater Toast
Agatha Christie An Autobiography

Rookie writing mistakes here.
Whatever Happened To...? (mini e-book)
A Short Guide to Writing Well