I was on the internet forum this morning and one of the subjects appearing asked the question: What do you prefer – 32 bit or 64 bit operating system? I never responded to the question as I’m not a geek. My first thought was, “Who cares as long as when I turn it on, it works!” After I drove out this morning I got to thinking about my evolution in computers. I had to stop and think back to the first time I saw a computer up live.
In the early ’80s I had a friend who was going on vacation and asked if I could “baby sit” his computer as he didn’t want to leave it at home while gone, so I said OK. He brought it over, set it up and showed me out to start it. If I remember right, it had to start in the DOS mode. It had two games on it he showed me how to play – Star Trek and asteroids. While it was at my house I turned it on a few times and played a couple rounds, but it wasn’t as exciting to me as reloading, tanning hides and such, so it mainly just took up space. I didn’t have to feed it, water it, clean up after it, so was a fairly easy babysitting job! It wasn’t until many moons later I really got introduced to computers.
I’d moved to Denmark and transferred to the 7th Army Reserve Command (ARCOM). Since there were no combat units, I was put into a headquarters type unit, completely foreign to this guy. In this unit I was around computers, saw people working them, but my job didn’t call for me to use one, so I stuck to the good old fashion maps with icons! Slowly but surely I got sucked into the computer operator mode as I worked night shift and needed to input and extract data. Ok it was basic and I kind of learned. That all changed in 1994 when I went to work at the V Corps HQ Emergency Action Center (EAC) in Frankfurt, Ge. This was during the Rwanda deal. I’ll never forget my first shift. I was the night shift NCOIC. As I was coming on duty, the day shift Operations Officer, a Major came to me, handed me a 3.5 disk and said, “SSG Dawson, you need to get this power point presentation updated for my 0800 briefing.” “Yes Sir” I replied as he handed me the disk and walked off. I must have had that lost puppy look on my face because a Specialists 4, sitting in front of a computer looked at me, “SSG Dawson, don’t worry, I can do that.” I looked back at him and told him ok, tonight, but during our slow time he was going to give me computer lessons so I could do my job. I found out power point was a lot more difficult than setting explosives to blow a bridge(piece of cake for me). So during the next few months I was there I learned “computer language”. I wasn’t fluent, just good enough to stay afloat. Right then I realized I needed to get one and start learning for real. When I got home I told the wife we needed to get one. She couldn’t see why we needed one and was against it, but we ended up at a store looking and soon purchased our first computer – the latest, greatest, fastest model on the market: 256 mega-bite hard drive with a 4 mega-bite ram. I soon purchased an additional 4 mega-bites of ram and I was in business. You know what the best part of this computer was – it came with the Windows 3.0 system disks so I could reload the system after I crashed the computer (which I did several times)! I can remember having to reload the system twice in a single day!!
I needed to get use to using it, so I decided to write something – that’s how the book GUIDE’S LIFE was born. I just needed to use it, but at home there wasn’t much use, so I wrote because back then all my life as a professional guide was still very fresh in my memory!
Well life evolved. A couple years later I got called into V Corps to work with some of their planners. They were developing a terrain management program which would greatly assist my work, and as I’d developed extensive knowledge in this area I assisted them in developing a program. I have no idea where it went after I moved on.
By now I’d been promoted to Master Sergeant (MSG) and was the NCOIC of the 317th RAOC. The 7th ARCOM saw fit to issue me a laptop computer with portable color printer! So now I carried this back and forth every month to drill. While at home, we didn’t have the internet, so I’d make a collect call to the ARCOM HQ, then they’d call me back with the phone line connection. It was great (very slow compared to now), I could communicate with my commander, get e-mail and such. Soon I told the wife we needed to get the internet. Again, it was “What do we need that for?” She was totally against it, but we did. By now our PC had increased as well. After I got online and our PC up to speed, I no longer carried the laptop, I’d carry those 3.5 discs .
Windows advanced and so did I. I no longer crashed the complete program. I somehow learned to operate the thing. After we got the internet connection it took a while for the wife to get on it. Soon I’d never have a peaceful evening – it was always “Mike, can you come in here?” She was going through her own growing pains, but she got it. Now you ought to hear the fur fly when there’s no internet, the computer doesn’t work right or something. She also discovered “shop on line”! She couldn’t live without it!
After I retired from the military I found my “productive” use of the computer dropped. I can go a whole day without it I don’t care, except for my work, I do like it for my bookkeeping program and it’s been great in my new found writing career. What is the one thing I’m most happy with about a computer? The fact Mrs. Mills taught me to type in high school!!

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