Monday, June 20, 2016

The Day The Computer Talked Back To Me



Do you ever find yourself talking out loud to your computer. I did just this morning when it was behaving strangely, asking "What is your problem, computer?" I read an article about personality types recently that claimed my Myers-Brigg personality type, the INFP (Introverted Intuitive Feeler Perceiver), is the most likely to personify inanimate objects. I read it and thought, "Well, that's very interesting, but I don't do that," and later that day, I found myself having one-sided conversations with inanimate objects. The computer is often at the receiving end of my words. If it is misbehaving, I might tell it, "Work, you pain in the neck computer, you!" At other times, I might try a gentler, persuasive approach, giving it a pep talk, saying, "You can do it. Cuuhhm on. Cuuhhm on. I know you can do it." It usually doesn't listen. However, there was a time in my life, when the computer talked back to me, and this was a long time before such technology as Siri.


I recently blogged about my father for Father's Day, remembering how, back in the '70s, Dad built his first computer from a kit. This was before home computers were common. For a long time, ours was the only family I knew who had a computer at home.

Dad, as an electrical engineer, now retired, loves computers and math. He sees the world around him in a different way than I do. He'll see a geometrical design or pattern or observe some construction workers doing some work, and he'll be reminded of a mathematical concept. When this happens and you're in Dad's company, whether you are a mathophile or a mathophobe, you are about to get a math lesson.

I don't share Dad's love for numbers. I always loved letters and words and books made up of letters and words. One of the more odd ways I had of entertaining myself as a child was by compiling lists of words. I think I intended to list all the words I knew or all the words that existed and perhaps create a giant dictionary. Dad is not so one-sided, and he encouraged me in my love of letters. I remember a time as a child when I was fascinated with a section of the encyclopedia on alphabets. This would be on all world alphabets, not just the Roman one. Dad had studied a little Greek, so he sat beside me and tried teaching me the names of the Greek letters. However, growing up, it really seemed that the mathematical genius gene had skipped over me.


I suppose it was good for my sake that a math tutor was never far away. When I was first learning my addition facts, Dad wrote a computer program to help me learn them and ran the program on that first old computer built from a kit. Looking back on that, I think it's amazing he did that to help my education, but, at the time, I was not so enthused.


I sat there at the computer quizzing my addition facts, and after a while, I  grew very tired of the computer telling me I had the wrong answers! Instead of typing in number answers, I started typing in words, insulting words. "You dummyhead, computer!" "You blockhead!" Then, in total frustration, I walked away from it.

This gave Dad, who had seen all of this, an interesting opportunity, because he had written the program, and he could upgrade it ... to not take those insults sitting down. Okay, the computer continued to sit down, I guess, but it no longer tolerated my insults. The next time, I worked on my addition facts at the computer and typed in insults instead of answers, the computer answered me back with "Same to you!" or "I know you are, but what am I?" As a young kid, I was quite amazed by the computer's ability to talk back to me!

Now, I am very grateful that Dad helped me learn that two plus two equals fifteen. Just kidding. I really can add now ... unless I'm nervous or distracted. Look, bunnies!