Sunday, June 30, 2024

The Computer Lab

The computer lab at Platt College was supervised by a man named Mike Garner. Mike was great with the technology, but less than great with the students. He liked me because I figured out pretty quickly that he didn't really like being asked questions (or being talked to at all.) Mike was the only one at the college who knew anything about the computers. Even the drafting teachers were largely technophobic. They could teach the CAD programs, but nothing else.

In addition to the CAD program called AutoCAD, the computers had a word processing program called WordPerfect and a desktop publishing program called Xerox Ventura Publisher. Mike had written a simple batch script that displayed a menu and allowed users to enter a number from the menu in order to launch their program. So, that was easy. After the program launched, I just had to fiddle around with it to figure things out.

I enjoyed the puzzle of it. For me learning about technology has always felt more like a game than a chore. I came in everyday after school to learn what I could through exploration. Other students, inspired by my example, followed. There was much confusion. I suppose that I take for granted my comfort when it comes to interfacing with computer technology. These days, everyone has grown up working around computer tech. It wasn't always like that, and it seems that I was an exception.

Students who came to the computer lab had questions and wanted answers. They didn't seem to recognize Mike's discomfort in the role of teacher. They wanted help. They were paying for an education. They expected immediate answers. I began running interference for Mike. I answered questions and helped students. 

When I started the telemarketing job, I couldn't stay late after school anymore. I came in during my school lunch breaks to work. Mike asked me about my absence in the evenings. I told him about my new job. Two weeks later I was back in the lab in the afternoons. Mike asked me about work. I told him that I was fired. Mike told me that he thought that they were crazy for firing me and left the lab. Fifteen minutes later I was summoned to the Dean's office and hired on the spot as Mike's assistant. 

I had a new job which involved going to the lab after school in the afternoons and doing everything that I was already doing, but now I was getting paid to do it. When the lab was quiet and I wasn't busy working on my APA, Mike would teach me about computer stuff. I was a quick study. I learned MS-DOS to better interface with the computers and eventually began learning some programming. 

Mike and I were becoming good friends. I had the perfect job that allowed me to stay in school and pursue my new interest in theater. The job wouldn't have provided enough to live on if I had lived anywhere else, but since living in the Villa cost $33 a month including utilities, I actually had plenty. I had enough for food and some left over. Life was good. 

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