Dorothy Miller

My Introduction to Computers

In 1982 I purchased my first computer, a Zenith Z89 with 8Kb of memory. I was writing a book on indigo and decided I could work faster on a computer than a typewriter. I joined a club for Zenith users in San Jose, CA. I agreed to write the club newsletter if members would help me with use of the computer.

The first word processing program I used was Magic Wand. It was a command-driven program. For example, if one wanted to indent a paragraph, one would put the letter I into curly brackets before the paragraph, like this: {I}. I understand that this is much like writing a web page. I soon needed more memory and I upgraded the computer to 16Kb. At the time this system cost $4,000.

I wrote several articles and journals on the computer which were published in craft magazines, in Ars Textrina (a Canadian academic journal), and in my book, Indigo from Seed to Dye.

In 1988 I wanted to join SeniorNet on America Online. I bought a Toshiba portable with 720Kb of memory. I used a special program which enabled me to connect to America On Line, and my adventure in telecommunication began. That year my husband had a stroke, and in order to care for him I was often confined to my home in the mountains above Aptos. It was then I began to make friends across the states via computer.

In 1989 there was the Loma Prieta earthquake. We still had electricity and phone for a few days, and I was able to contact my family who lived in Los Angeles. Although we were cut off by slides on our road, when the electricity and telephone were working I was able to contact friends and family.

In 1992 America Online SeniorNet and Mellownet in Japan were communicating via satellite. (This was before America On Line provided access to the internet). Mellownet is a communications society for seniors in Japan. I made friends with Nobuko and Kazumi Nakamura and continued to talk to them via e-mail. Nobuko contracted cancer, had hospice care and then died. Her husband Kazumi and I continue to communicate. I had the opportunity to have his granddaughter as a guest in our home when she visited the United States and Santa Cruz.

My husband Gene had a heart attack and then another stroke in May of 1994. His throat was paralyzed. The doctors and speech therapists said he would never swallow again. I put this information on-line. Mal Lipson, an America On Line member from Massachusetts, researched the Web and sent me four articles telling of success stories with retraining mouth and throat muscles. I went to Los Gatos, CA to the rehab doctor we saw following his previous stroke. He prescribed exercises which were successful. Gene could swallow and eat again. The dribbling of saliva stopped, a condition which was so embarrassing and annoying to him.

Although Gene could eat, his epiglottis was paralyzed and food would go into his lungs. We kept hoping that the epiglottis would recover its function, but it never did and tube feeding had to be continued. Gene died a year later under hospice care. All this time I received wonderful caring messages from AOL SeniorNet members which kept my spirits up. I have made wonderful friends on SeniorNet, among them Dave Rigler who is in the class at UCSC making this web page.

In the Spring of 1996 I went to Japan and met many of the people with whom I have been communicating on the Internet. Some have come to visit in Santa Cruz to see our Senior Center.

It is interesting to me that I am writing this at the San Francisco Public Library using a computer I am renting, paying for the time with my credit card. It is amazing how far the use of computers have come in the 16 years I have used one. I now have a laptop, a new pentium computer, a scanner and a digital camera! I was 80 years old in September of this year, and I am still communicating with seniors on the Internet who are my age or older.
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