Computers and Cats

Writing used to mean writing.  Writing with a pencil or pen … or in my case, a fountain pen … on paper.  There is something organic about writing on paper which is why many people who journal still put pen to paper.   I find it’s harder to lie to myself when I’m journalling on paper, a phenomenon I’ve heard attributed to the bullshit filter in my elbow.   I’m old enough to have experienced writing engineering reports on paper which I then handed to a secretary who attempted to decode my cramped cursive and type the report in a publishable format.  Rarely did the process go smoothly, since there was a good chance I’d discover an error in my calculations while the report was being typed … or, that upon reviewing the secretary’s efforts, I’d find that what she read in my draft and what I wrote weren’t the same.  Corrections required devices like correction tape, White-Out and, sometimes, retyping of whole pages.   Being a good secretary required saint-like patience because many engineers weren’t.

In the 1970s, word processors began to change the process.  These specialized machines, which were essentially computerized typewriters, allowed secretaries to more easily make changes electronically.  You’d probably expect that this would have improved their lot but engineers, aware that changes were easier to make, began to revise and re-revise their reports with impunity.  Secretarial sainthood was still required.  Gradually, though, personal computers began to appear on desks and engineers were encouraged (at first) and required (later) to submit their drafts to their secretary in electronic form.  Since 92% of engineers had skipped Typing 101 as beneath them and resented having to input their own drafts, the drafts secretaries received were, in the truest sense of the word, ROUGH drafts.  But their lives was simplified.  Then, a funny thing happened.  Gradually, the few engineers who like to write … and were willing to learn how to use word processing programs like Microsoft Word, took over the whole process.  Secretarial sainthood was still required, however, because they still had to deal with engineers with respect to travel plans, expense reports, time cards and personnel evaluations.

Those with Younger Eyes likely take it for granted that we can sit here in front of a laptop computer publishing professional quality posts without ever putting pen to paper … or resorting to secretarial help.  I doubt there are many of us who hand write our posts (I occasionally do but only when inspiration strikes in the park, in which case I’m my own secretary).   I wonder how many people under 40 know the standard editing marks we used when editing on paper.  Cut, Paste and Copy used to be literal terms … now, they are just a mouse-click.   It is a technological miracle … with one sometimes major flaw: the Unsaved Document.  In the early days of electronic publishing, when computers were flakier and Word Processing didn’t go to such lengths to rescue users who forget to Save, losing hours of work was common.   These days, any worthwhile word processing program or blogging software incorporates Auto-Save, that amazing utility that periodically saves your work on a regular basis … except in the hour preceding a computer failure.

You can probably guess that I recently lost an Unsaved Document.  Sunday night, I nearly done with my Monday Smiles post.  It was almost midnight and I had invested about an hour and a half, hoping to schedule it to post in the morning.   Suddenly, my laptop screen went black.  Shit.  I punched a few keys and hit the power button.  Nothing.  Of course, I just knew I hadn’t Saved Monday Smiles … and that WordPress’ usually reliable Auto-Save had sensed an impending computer failure and decided I needed an indelicate reminder to Save my own documents.  The fan in the laptop was humming away happily and there were no telltale sounds of a failing hard disc.   Then I smelled burning plastic and noticed small sparks crackling halfway down my power cord.  I hadn’t been hit by a disc failure or a virus or a trojan or a computer bug … I’d been sabotaged by a Cord-Chewing Cat.  You see, our very cute but somewhat neurotic cat, Elvis, loves to bite power cords.   Only when they are plugged in.  She likes the sound of the sparks as her sharp little teeth penetrate the wires.  Fotunately she seems to choose the low voltage side of the transformer.  OK, maybe she’s neurotic because my son named her Elvis.

So, I made a Scotch Tape temporary repair on my power cord and returned to WordPress to find my post was nowhere to be found.   I rewrote it Monday Morning, along with this brief history of electronic word processing, which seemed like a natural for Top Sites Tuesday, the BlogDumps meme where we offer Two Thoughts on Tuesday.   Mine?   Well, Thought One: Always Save your work … Auto-Save may not save you.  And Thought Two: If you have a Cord Chewing Cat, you can find some ways to discourage the habit here.  It is actually quite common.  It is also quite common for me to ask: If you enjoyed this post, please click my button … gently … to make me Number One on Top Sites Tuesday # 178.

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5 Comments on “Computers and Cats”

  1. Reblogged this on filmcamera999 and commented:
    ..alas…we are a dying breed, i fear! nobody wrties using pen and paper these days..not very much, anyways…..never mind, i still love my fountain pens..!

  2. Wolfbernz Says:

    Hi Bud,

    I’ve lost many posts to auto save failure or a dropped connection when I’m saving. Now I always to try to select all and copy my posts before doing anything – I suppose though that a cord chewing ca would defeat my method…

    Clicks for you and Elvis 😉

  3. Trina Says:

    I took a typing class once, I don’t even think they offer typing anymore though. I suppose it’s an assumed thing…. obviously you can type if you can text with serious proficiency LOL I remember teachers requiring a hand written first draft too – my papers always came back bleeding red ink.

    And with time the jobs of secretaries are more about being personal planners than letter writers or typing. Who knew right?


  4. cherperz Says:

    I have only lost one post because of a computer glitch. Blogger went down and everyone had the same problem. I took comfort in the fact, it was a unison loss.

    I have heard of cats chewing on cords esp. the cat in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation movie.

    Elvis is quite adorable. Hope all is forgiven about his necessitating the rewrite.

    As for the introduction of electronics in the “writing down our thoughts” Hallelujah! For the ease of correcting all the errors related to writing down those thoughts…Hallelujah and Let the Angels sing!!!!


  5. I am so glad the secretaries have been rescued they need a brake. I tried to do some typing in school and I hated it so much I have never learned how to type properly. So now I still hunt and peck a lot!

    Here’s your click ……

    Love and Blessings,

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