Our teacher said, “Computers are an up-and-coming technology. Many of you may be working with them in the future, depending on what jobs you have.” After pausing for a moment to collect his thoughts, he continued on, “Right now computers are large and have limited functions. I heard of one at a college that’s as big as this room. In the future they’ll get smaller and be more useful.”
My mind was drifting during this lecture on future careers. Graduation day was in two weeks! Below the open classroom windows, I heard a lawn mower start up. Soon the scent of fresh-cut grass floated in on a breeze. The familiar smell reminded me of my happy, uncomplicated childhood. Feeling panicky, I thought, “I’m not ready to be an adult yet!”
Although I didn’t enjoy classroom studies, I planned to go to college in the fall. The thought of working in a factory or office didn’t appeal to me, so I thought nursing was my best bet.
A funny thing happened between the summer school chemistry classes that I needed to take, and the start of the nursing program in Eau Claire. I met my future husband and got a job as a Nursing Assistant. Suddenly I liked being an adult.
Bedside nursing care didn’t use computers or other technology during my first years working as a nursing assistant. We checked blood sugars for diabetic patients using tablets that changed color with a drop of urine, pumped up blood pressure cuffs by hand, used glass, mercury-filled thermometers and hand cranked beds.
One day while waiting for a woman to deliver her baby on the obstetric department in the hospital, an anesthesiologist said to me and two of the older ladies that I worked with, “In the future you’re going to be taking blood pressures with a machine that has a window where the reading can be seen.”
The two older nursing assistants laughed hard, saying, “That’s impossible and will never happen on the nursing units!” We shouldn’t have doubted him…after all, our country had recently landed a space ship on the moon. Advanced technology existed, but for everyday life, that sounded like science fiction, like Star Trek. In the following years new scientific innovations began to slowly filter into the hospital. At first it was simple things like machines to time the flow of intravenous fluids.
A few years later while I was taking my patients’ vital signs, the head nurse rolled a machine mounted on wheels up to me. She said, “I want you to use this to take your blood pressures. Put the cuff on the patient as usual and press the ‘on’ button.” Pointing to the face of the machine, she said, “These windows are where the readings can be seen.” Immediately, I flashed back to what the anesthesiologist had said and realized that he had been right.
I couldn’t see any need for computers in my private life, but the flood of technology slowly seeped into our home. One day my husband Arnie, said, “Computers are getting to be a big thing. We need one so our children have a chance learn how to use them.”
Arnie came home with a computer soon after and set it up in the office area just off the living room. I started to hear about DOS, RAM and bytes. It was like having a foreigner move in.Arnie introduced Niki and Tammie to Mist, a computer game. They loved it and quickly mastered the rules.
I had started writing a weekly column for a local paper, but stubbornly refused to use the computer. Each article was done in long hand, then slowly typed. It was laborious and time consuming because I liked to make frequent changes. Then I had to retype the whole thing.
A few years later Arnie bought a new computer and started to talk about something called, “Windows”. I decided to see how the new writing program in this computer worked. I fell instantly, completely and absolutely in love. I was able to revise as I wrote and when I hit the print button my copy came out in pristine condition.
When things go wrong with the computer, as they often do, I still probably have a look of wide-eyed wonder on my face when I say, “Gee Whiz!” What just happened here?” Then I call my daughter to fix it for me. As much as I love the writing program, I have not yet become a computer whiz kid!