refreshing bits

Every three years Villanova “refreshes our pc’s.” Refresh, as you may have guessed is their euphemism for replace. Why they have to rename replace refresh is something that only a true alliterist can figure out. I think maybe it makes people running departments feel special.


It’s a rather daunting undertaking considering how many faculty and staff are employed here. UNIT (UNiversity Information Technologies) started coordinating with departments many months ago, sending out broadcasts over email, voice-mail and even paper charts and such for us to indicate what we had and what we needed. This month they started the actual replacement procedures and have been conducting 2 classes a day on all the new software, applications and features. They even have a FAQ page on the web where they post glitches, bugs and work-arounds. One lovely woman updates this FAQ every evening as refreshing new problems and fixes are reported.

I must say, they’ve come a long way over the years. I lobbied for two years before I was given my first computer in 1990. I was extremely excited when Greg showed up with my beige 8088 IBM with a 20MB hard drive and a 2400 baud modem which I had to plug into the phone jack to check my email. I had a 12″ monitor with an amber display, a keyboard and a dot matrix printer. Greg from UCIS (which is what UNIT used to be called before they refreshed their name) came over, set up the computer, gave me my new email address (saboe@vuvaxcom.bitnet) and told me to have at it. “Where’s the manual?” I naively asked. “Manual? There’s no manual.” “How do I learn how to use the computer?” I asked, feeling dumber than I look. “You play,” Greg laughed and then left. This was the extent of Villanova’s user support at the time.

I doggedly poked at the keyboard until things happened. I asked people how they did whatever it was they did, learned how to use Dos, figured out that the black screen was where you actually started typing in WordPerfect and learned how to use Kermit to get into my email. I wrote the first unofficial email user’s manual for anyone on campus who was interested. The guys from UCIS asked me for copies to give out to people. I think I still have a copy of that manual somewhere in my desk. I learned much by typing the word “send” over bitnet to “talk” to distant friends and even participated in a remote internet demonstration without my prior knowledge or consent or that of the presenter….but that’s another story.

So today, I have been given a shiny new Dell computer. Because I do a lot of graphics for the library, I was given Option 2. Option 2 has a faster processor, 74 gig hard drive and 512 mb of ram. I connect to the network over a 100Mbps connection and my 19″ monitor has millions of colors besides amber. Option 2 is a tad faster opening Photoshop, but not by a lot. A few of us are going to lobby for more ram as soon as the virtual dust clears.

I’m old enough to be astounded by the changes and the fact that all the speed, space and memory available now never seems to be enough. Every now and then I google “bit.listserv.politics” just to poke around and read the posts from the old politics list I used to run. When I’m feeling really old, I just pull the book, The Internet Starter Kit for MacIntosh that Adam and Bill wrote, off the shelf and read the contributions my friends and I wrote for the first edition. Our pieces were on the order of “how has the internet changed my life?” It really did change our lives in many ways. We grew, exchanged information and ideas, formed friendships and even married people we never would have had occasion to meet if it wasn’t for those connecting bits and packets that I used to love to watch hop from Villanova to Princeton to Towson to…

ahhh…how I miss the old days of bitnet…when the internet and life itself was a bit more refreshing.

4 thoughts on “refreshing bits

  1. Anonymous says:

    She misses Bitnet!!!
    Bet you miss Word Star too 🙂
    Me, I don’t miss ANY of it! It’s onward and upward for me!!! I LOVE my new Dell laptop!!

    1. lsaboe says:

      Re: She misses Bitnet!!!
      heh…next thing ya know, i’ll be saying, “why in my day, we had to type in only zeros and ones to send email.”
      word star…hmmm…i never used that one. my first word processing software was volkswriter.
      glad you like your new laptop. i kinda like my fancy new high end machine too.
      but i still miss bitnet.

    1. lsaboe says:

      Re: refreshing bitnets
      i know you. ya know, it’s sort of a shame, us, pining away for the old daze. but hell, our daze were so much more fun and colorful.

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