Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Quick Brown Fox

My husband and I bought our first computer in 1983. We were in Labuan at this time. My husband was attached to the No. 5 Squadron and I was teaching at SMK Labuan. This was a time when computers were still at its infancy in Malaysia, I presume. Nevertheless, everybody seemed to be talking about the many wonders that a computer could do. My computer knowledge at that time was ZERO and it has not improved much since then. Anyway, my husband convinced me that a computer would lessen my workload in preparing  tests and exam questions. I suppose he noticed how I used my two fingers to tap furiously at my Olivetti typewriter until the wee hours of the morning every time a school exam was approaching. I remember asking him how a computer would help me and I think his answer was "You only have to type once and then all the questions will be stored and then you can recycle the questions". That sounded good to me and so we set out to get our computer.

Those days there were not many shops that sell computers in Labuan, may be only one or two. We headed for an electrical shop called Keharsons, very famous then. There was only one computer on display, an NEC model. After staring at it for a few minutes, both of us agreed that it was quite impressive, so we decided to purchase it. The transaction was very fast because we didn't know what to ask and the shop assistant also did not volunteer to supply any information. I suppose he was equally ignorant. My husband paid the bill, about RM2,500, and we headed home to try out our new toy. My husband's philosophy is very simple. Once the property belongs to you, you can experiment with it. He had done so on many occasions like with our refrigerator, TV, VCR, washing machines and countless other electrical items. All that he experimented with were successful and this computer should not be of any problem!

The moment we arrived home, my husband wasted no time in assembling the computer. It went straight to our bedroom and on top a government-issued writing table. The whole ensemble comprised of a CPU, a monitor, a keyboard and an external storage device.There was no mouse. After attaching all the cables and wires and satisfied that everything was according to what was stated in the instruction manual, he switched on the computer and I could see the pride on his face when the monitor screen came to life. He was successful again this time.

The next stage proved a little bit more trickier. He started by testing the keyboard and immediately the characters appeared on screen. Alright, he was getting somewhere. So, my dear husband typed "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" and waited for a few seconds to see what would happen. Nothing happened .He repeated the process and still there was nothing. Equipped with a total ignorance on computers, we were not able to do much that night except to have the satisfaction that we finally owned a computer. My husband confidently promised that everything would be OK tomorrow.

I do not know whether WINDOWS was available at the time we bought the computer, I doubt it. Those days it was WORDSTAR and it was not as user friendly as WINDOWS. In fact, to the both of us, it was not friendly at all! I do not know how many rows of "The quick brown fox......................." my husband typed the following day but he never got any further than that. Finally, out of desperation, he consulted a friend who happened to have just completed a course on computers. This friend lent us a book on computers. Unfortunately, we failed to understand what was described in the book. Finally,after comtemplating on what to do for a few days, we decided that we were not ready for computers yet. So, my husband put everything back in their respective boxes and we set off again to Keharsons, hoping and praying that we could exchange it for something else.

The people at Keharsons agreed to take it back, but at a second hand price, in exchange for some other electrical item. This was good enough for us for we feared that they might not want to accept it at all. There were not many choices. We already possessed the basic electrical gadgets in the house so we settled for an Akai hi-fi  set. We had topay a few hundred ringgit to acquire it and headed straight for home. This time there was no excitement merely a sigh of relief that our mission was accomplished.

Once again my husband took all the components out of their boxes and connected all the cables. He put on a record on the turn table and within seconds, Tom Jones' "Love is in the Air" filled the household. There was a smile of satisfaction on our faces. Why would anyone want a computer. This was a better deal, it was able to provide sweet music for our ears! That was how we consoled ourselves.

So, I went back to my good old Olivetti for many more years after that without any complaints. One day in 1995, I had to attend a  course on preparing Mathematics questions in Port Dickson. We were required to prepare many questions using the computer. It was very embarassing when I had to confess that I did not know to use the computer. From that moment onwards, I decided it was time for me to get acquainted once again with the computer. After returning from Port Dickson, I did not waste any time in enrolling myself in a computer class. It was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. There was no turning back after that.

Fourteen years have passed since then. When the government introduced PPSMI in 2002, all of us, Maths and Science teachers were each given a laptop to enhance our lessons in class. Whether we liked it or not, we had to use it, so, indirectly, we had to learn. My computer literacy has improved but only up to a point where it  serves all my purpose. My husband, on the other hand, was not interested after "The quick brown fox.........." incident. He could only type a letter and print it. That was all the progress that he made UNTIL he started blogging last June. He became so engrossed with this new hobby that inevitably he had to learn how to use it to write his blog. I must say say that he has improved by leaps and bounds. He keeps on bragging that his blog is very colourful compared to mine, which, according to him, is plain and dull. I refrained from retorting that only beginners are excited over colourful fonts and highlights. I passed that stage a long time ago.

About two weeks ago, I decided to get a new netbook, simply because I have no access to my old one since he started blogging. I thought he was going to object to my idea but instead he was all for it. I told him to get one for me but he insisted that I follow him to the shop. When the shop assistant showed us a few models, he kept on nudging me to ask questions about the computer. Honestly, I did not know what to ask and I bet he was equally helpless. So, you see, we have not gone very far since the "The quick brown fox.............."
Incidentally, my Olivetti typewriter has found a comfortable resting place in my closet.


  1. very entertaining read. i remember my progression from typewriter to the electronic one, pc to notebook. from dos to windows to mac. from wordstar, harvard graphics to ms office.

    p.s i'm glad i found this blog, honest.

  2. noir,
    Thank you for your kind words.