I got my first computer, a Commodore VIC 20, 35 years ago when I was about 15 years old. At that time, computers were still considered expensive hobbyist equipment and the home computer industry was in its infancy. I learned how to program in BASIC, using my skills to write simple games for my friends to play. I upgraded to the Commodore 64 about a year later.
In my last year of high school I formed the area’s first computer club, equipped with two used Apple II’s that were donated by a local business person. After I completed my A-levels I went off to university. I wanted to study computer science and electrical engineering.
The school, Drew University, had started a program a year earlier where every incoming freshman was provided an IBM PC with WordPerfect. It ran DOS 3.3. At Drew, I completed a course in Pascal programming. One of the projects was writing a basic text editor with a built-in spell checker. Fun!
Engineering school — where I learned how to program microcontroller — , graduate school (where I learned how to use UNIX), first job (programming microcontroller with video compression algorithms), second job, consulting, web development, another job, etc. all lead to where I am now; information security consulting. I help organizations make sure that information is accessible, correct, and available only to the people authorized to do so.
If computers didn’t exist, my career, my entire life, would not exists. I would be without a means of employment. Computers allow every feature of modern life. Cars and planes have computers. Our food distribution systems are run by computer. I work in the IT niche of information security.
Without computers, the insulin that keeps me alive would not be possible to manufacture. It’s an insulin that is more effective and has fewer side-effects than the insulin that were produced in the past. Computers manage the entire manufacturing process. Without the computers, the effort needed to create the insulin would make the manufacturing process not worthwhile. The insulin would not be produced.
A computer powers the insulin pump, continuous glucose monitoring, and glucose meter that allow me to manage my Type 1 diabetes. Without computers, I would have to boil my urine in a glass beaker, mix it funny chemicals and wait a long time just to get a reading of my blood glucose. Did you know that mortality rates of people with diabetes is lower than it was in the past.
Several years ago, I had eye surgery to fix a cataract. The ophthalmologist relied heavily on computers to help him with the surgery. The calculations and some operation of the surgical laser were only possible because of computers.
Some people will say that we survived without computers. But to that I say, some people survived better than others. Computers have empowered people in ways that few people consider. Some people will say, “Often I wish there were no computers so we would talk more in our relationships.” That’s a load of bullshit. That has nothing to do with computers. If you want to talk to people and build relationships then go ahead. Stop using the computer as an excuse.
Considering what I do for a living, what my medical needs are, my life without a computer would not be anything like it is now. I can’t fathom it. My life, the life I have had the freedom to create because of computer, my life would be barren.
In response to this writing prompt, Your life without a computer: what does it look like?