Saturday, February 1, 2014

Oh how I miss my Abacus

Bruce Eekma

I was born in the good old days, well I don't know if it was always good, but a lot simpler. I started school in 1947, two years after the second World War, outfitted with an abacus to do math plus a small slate the size of a sheet of paper including a chalk pencil, for writing things down.  We did all our math and written task, which the teacher had written on the blackboard the evening before, on our slate and when completed we would show them our completed work. At the end of the day we would just wipe of all this information, so we had a"clean slate" to start the next morning, and the only memory we had to worry about was in our head.

In the seventies I was involved in building large temperature controlled buildings where contractors would install large cabinets called computers. We were told that these large cabinets could remember more then a human and could solve math problems in a second. We were entering the paperless society and there would be less people employed for filing.

Later when I worked downtown for  AGT now TELUS, we had three floors with these large computers, and I was told they were rented out to large oil companies to store all their data. On the main floor we had what was called the Museum of the Future filled with all kinds of gadgets to be use for communication in the future and my favorite was a robot that would walk around and talked to people, the other was a display of phones where one could see the person you were talking to. In my own office I also had an computer with my own Profs id. Plus I was sent on numerous computer courses just so they could steal me away from my abacus and slate.

Ever since, my days with the telephone company, I have owned a computer at home and would do office work from home or Google the world. I was very impressed with this new invention because this was my window into the world. And until this last weekend everything was going great, sometimes I would make mistakes or lose something, but there was always a way to retrieve my data without much problem.

Then my week in hell started, I run Microsoft 8, and accepted the free upgrade to Microsoft 8.1. This went without a hint of problems however then it prompted me to refresh my computer to make it run better and this would not harm my files, because they would be set aside, so I gave it a try. Big Mistake because when I got my files back they were unreadable, written in some computer code, which I could not decipher. There was one file, the book that I'm in the process of rewriting, that I couldn't access because it was password protected and even though I had given it this password it still would not let me open it.

At first I panicked thinking that maybe David L Smith had given me his Melissa virus, or Bradley Manning had sent it to Wikileaks. My book A Daughter's Search for her Father has a Nazi link, this is the one I'm rewriting, so maybe some old Nazi War Criminal was afraid that I'm getting too close to the truth. All kinds of crazy thing's go through one's head and nowadays everything is possible.

I finally got in touch with someone from Microsoft who spent three hours trying to solve my problem to no avail. However he claimed that it was not Microsoft that caused the problem but an old word processor that I had used long ago. This did not make me feel any better because the Microsoft word processer had worked for a long time and now all of a sudden it is not compatible. Anyway he did find and loaded this old word processer onto my computer so I could try to repair them myself. I spent numerous hours getting more and more frustrated and finally dumped the whole mess in my garbage can. So I lost a lot of work, it put me six months behind republishing a new version of my book, but I like to thank Microsoft for helping me for three hours and for being very patiently with an old man and next time I will not try to get something that does not have all the kinks ironed out.  


  1. It's amazing how quickly technology changes. When I was young, we were past the abacus and the chalk and slate, but we also did not have household computers. My children, on the other hand, have grown up with computers and cell phones. I wonder what technology will be normal to their children?

    1. I think about how much I have had to keep up with in terms of technology too, Juliette. When I think about operating systems that change frequently and new interface updates. I see how the advent of "invisibles" made it even more challenging for the new user. (Invisibles are what I call the tool bars that don't appear unless you scroll in just the right place... can you imagine trying to teach someone who has never used tech to understand that!?!)

  2. Change can can be very challenging. I remember being taught basic tube theory, then being sent to the field to work on equipment and eventually returned to be rest aught transistor theory. It was mind boggling. They never seems to be an end to the upgrade

  3. Sounds like your next technology lesson should be in online back up!

  4. You have a very interesting story of historical importance to your family and your readers. Hopefully Microsoft will assist you further to resurrect your files.