Monday, March 18, 2013

Computer On. I repeat...

When I started my current position in 1995, none of us had a computer in our classrooms. A single computer lab, equipped with Apple Color Classics, sat dark on the second floor--at least that is how I remember it since that is the only way I saw it. I have no idea who used them--the dawning of computer access for students hadn't yet yawned in our building.

In 1996, teachers received an offer: attend a computer workshop and get a computer for your classroom.

Incredibly, only a dozen teachers showed for the first round of offers. It was a mixed bunch in terms of experience with a computer. We met in the small, but cozy, library classroom. Our Macintosh LC500 computers awaited us. Directed to sit at any one we liked, that computer would become ours after the training.

While I owned a Powerbook for personal use, the colleague who sat next to me did not have much experience with a computer. Nevertheless, everyone was excited--including the man who sat right next to me.


Ralph had logged over thirty-five years of teaching math to middle school students and was going strong for forty. Time paused forever in the early 60s for Ralph. His Roy Orbison black frames and slick black hair complimented the white short-sleeved dress shirt. It was like his own superhero uniform--he wore this combination every day with charcoal slacks.

He arrived first to school every morning. He put the coffee on. No one else was allowed. During a heavy snowstorm he called me at home and asked me if I wanted to make some extra money plowing snow. Even though we had the day off, I declined. He would needle me relentlessly about passing up a chance to make a few extra dollars.

The workshop started right after school. Our leader directed us to turn on the computers and helped a few of the teachers who sat near the front of the space. As I pressed the inconspicuous power button, I saw Ralph look at the left side of his computer and then the right side.

Most screens blinked to life with the signature Apple tone. Ralph stared at a blank screen.

And before I could open my mouth to help, Ralph did what seemed logical to someone who spent his childhood reading Dick Tracy and middle adulthood watching Star Trek. He pressed the underside of the mouse up to his mouth and enunciated as if he were the real Henry Higgins:
"Computer on."
"I repeat, Computer on."

Note: While "Ralph" is a fictional name--this is a true story. 


  1. Love your story! Made me laugh I can picture Ralph in my mind!

  2. Little did Ralph know, voice activation would not be too far in the future...great story!

  3. Laughing out loud! That sounds like something my grampa did when he first got his computer...I have never seen anyone who can mess up a computer better than him! Thanks for the story!

  4. Ha!! I can see it happening. I remember when I was showing my parents how to use our first computer and had similar experiences!