Learning Curves

I bought my first computer in January of 1986. It was a Compaq Deskpro with a 286 processor, what we used to call a IBM compatible. It ran on DOS at a blistering 20 Mhz! That seemed pretty fast at the time, but today’s new computers run at over 100 times that speed.

For software I used Word Perfect for word processing and later it’s cousin Plan Perfect for spreadsheets. The Word Perfect Corporation also produced a suite of utilities called Library that included an address book application. The strength of the combined programs was that you could sort the information in your address book and then merge it into the word processing program, by use of a complicated coding system.

The learning curve to master all that new technology was steep, especially for a computer newbie. There were many times when I felt like taking that computer and throwing it in the dumpster, but I didn’t.

Eventually, I used the programs to run my first political campaign, a primary for State Assembly in 1986, and start my first publication, a political newsletter called The Grapevine. I also relied on it heavily to organize the first Avon Corn Festival in 1987.

In 1989, I got into the newspaper business and was confronted by a different kind of computer called a Macintosh. Clarion founder Bob Savage had invested in two Mac SEs and a laser printer. The SEs ran at only 8 Mhz, but they made up for the slow speed by having a much more friendly user interface.

Still, I struggled to learn a new word processor called MacWrite and a new graphic program called Pagemaker. This was made even harder by the new experience of having to learn on a deadline. The first issue that I produced on my own featured a front page story about the Town of Geneseo finally buying Long Point Park. That issue went to press in the wee hours of the morning.

In 1993, I had the crazy idea to start Genesee Country Magazine. For that we had to learn all about color printing and a new program called Photoshop, as well as a new page layout program called Quark. Again we worked against a deadline and a major blizzard to get the first issue out in April of that year. To run all that powerful new software, I purchased a state-of-the-art Macintosh Quadra 950 that ran at 33 Mhz!

Although it still runs, that proud old tower now gathers dust in the corner. I didn’t even bother to put a tag on it for my recent sale. If I had, it would have said “free to good home.”

In the mid 1990s a new technology called the Internet swept the world. I was an early adapter, but I soon realized that this time I was ahead of the curve. The Internet would only succeed when a critical mass of people became wired, so I put my enthusiasm on the back burner.

After selling my newspaper in March, I judged it was finally time to reenter the World Wide Web and tackle the Brave New World of the blogosphere. Almost immediately, however, I realized that I was in over my head again. People began complaining that our blogs, which display perfectly on my brand new Macbook, were unreadable, or at least highly annoying on their computers.

We have spent the last few weeks discovering the many ways in which modern equipment and software can be completely incompatible. The frustration of being on a learning curve is that it requires you to figure out all the things that won’t work, and in today’s Babel of competing platforms, operating systems and software, that’s a lot!

So please be patient as it may take us a little longer to climb over the hump. But don’t worry, we’ll make it. We always have!

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