Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Monday, 1 December 2008

Dear dead Dos dreams

In the High and Far-Off Times, the PC, O Best Beloved, had no mouse. It had only a Keyboard… I can’t keep up with Kipling but you get the idea. This was aeons ago. This was the age of Dos when today’s careless texters and wilful misspellers would have been required to bend the knee to the computer’s rigours rather than the other way round.

Say you had a file called Teacup in a folder called Saucer and you wanted to copy it to another folder called Milkjug. On a blank screen devoid of pretty icons you typed something (age has affected my memory) like this:
C/>: copy: /Saucer/Teacup/: /Milkjug/
And if you didn’t get it exactly right nothing happened.

Windows plus a mouse meant any fool could drag and drop but the advantages weren’t immediately apparent. When told about Word for Windows I remember asking: why complicate a typing procedure by breaking off to use a mouse?

A computer running on Dos was like an Austin 7. Repairs and maintenance were within anyone’s grasp. You could tinker with the central cortex by rearranging the autoexec/bat file, causing the PC to boot up differently. You could penetrate the hard disk and alter the way programs appeared on the screen.

My favourite game was Columns, a childish version of Tetris. When I changed to a slightly faster computer I realised I would never match my earlier scores because Columns too was now faster. So I found the score box on the hard disk, deleted the old figures and started again. I was Master of the Universe.

But it didn’t last.

4 comments:

Plutarch said...

What please, in the present context, is the plural of mouse?

marja-Leena said...

Ah, I remember when husband bought his first home PC so he could practice for work needs. I could not get the hang of it at all. Eventually it was a Mac, it's mouse and icons (both later adopted by PCs) that started me on computer literacy and I haven't looked back! I shudder again with the memory of trying to find my files in some obscure directory. You had to be a programmer.

Barrett Bonden said...

Plutarch: Here is a greatly edited (in the ratio 2:1) response from Wiki-Answers

Mice? Some say yes (42% in a recent poll) but this word was coined for an animal, not an object, so is it appropriate? Mouses, just adding an "s"? Let's face it, it just sounds wrong.

I propose a new word. Think of house; the plural has a "z" sound at the end. Think of more than one computer mouse as mouses (phon: mowz-is).

Note1. According to the PC Dictionary it is "mice." (I am unaware of this reference book. BB)

Note 2. MOUSE is an acronym, and is short for Manually-Operated User-Selection Equipment so technically it is already plural. Most people, however pluralise acronyms, and initials in general, by adding a small s, so it would be MOUSEs, which seems a bit silly.

Note 3.It's definitely "mouses".

M-L: Macs were the first computers with a GUI (graphical user interface), which meant icons, which required a mouse. Everyone who's used a Mac knows how much easier they were to use (including me; I used a Mac at work). The disadvantage was there was less software for Macs and they had compatibility problems fitting into a techno-world that was dominated by PCs. Microsoft then created Windows which imitated the Mac GUI and which was terrible to begin with. Gradually Windows improved. I haven't used a Mac now for ten years and I'm told (though never by a true Mac fan) the ease of usage is now more or less equal.

All I can say is that the author whose book I've been editing for two years uses a Mac and I spend a good deal of time tidying up after he's messed up my nice clean files.

Dos was fun because it provided the illusion that you were in control. But like all illusions...

Lucy said...

I didn't know about mouse being an acronym, or did you make that up? I thought it was because of its shape and tail...

We don't know we're born these days do we?