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A Diary of Computing Efforts

25th August 1998

My learning curve in computing has been pretty steep. It occurs to me that I can't really remember how little I knew when I first got this machine in February anymore. I've learnt not to panic when it freezes up and rolls over and how to fettle it in lots of little ways.
It's a big biege Tamogotchi that needs lots of love and care.
Perhaps a few notes on what I'm trying to do might make sense in another six months when I look back. And why not keep these notes on the other side of the screen and write them in handcrafted HTML for extra effect.
Perhaps I should explain how I got this far.
My brother has worked in computers for years, first getting involved through programming a little Spectrum so that a little man would toddle across the screen, get into a rocket and blast off. It was too much effort for two little effect for me but he has persisted for half a career now. He has assisted my learning curve a lot.
The first usable computers I saw were tiny Apple Macs at college when I was doing teacher training in 1988. The screen was minute and drawing on an A4 piece of paper involved remembering what I'd done at the top and scrolling down to work on the bottom part. I got very involved and started to dream in scrolling screens and pull down menus.
I made a book and a whole pile of images based on a drawing of the optic nerve by Leonardo Da Vinci. I called the book Leonardo's Computer Codex. Perhaps I shall dig it out sometime and put it on here.
The geniuses who came up with the Apple GUI and the mouse should have a statue or two put up to them. Without them none of this would have happened. I mean, to make it possible for arty types like me to use a computer is a wonderful thing!
I was a convinced Apple fan for many years though unable to gather the wherewithal to acquire one. Then I started my current job as Head of Art at Kirkley Middle School in Lowestoft, Suffolk. There had just been installed a network of 13 Pentiums and a NT server. This was the first time I'd seen Windows 95 which had not long been out. And Windows 95 is Apple Mac 84, right?
I played with these things at school quite a bit. I drew on them, wrote and ran around LA as Duke Nukem. I was getting hooked.
Last year I organised a big exhibition of 38 artists called CHAIR. Part of my idea was to use computers for this to see if they helped and wether I thought I could justify buying one for myself. So I mail shot and databased and scanned and wrote with the school computers and used the school laptop a lot and, yep, I was convinced.
So I bought one.
My brother put it together for me and I fetched it in February. It is a Pentium 233 MMX, one of the last of the old ones before the PII, with 4Gig of hard drive and 64K of RAM and very fine it is too.
When it came down to it the fact that being compatable with school was important and that my brother puts Wintels together out weighed my affection for Apples. And at the time Apple were making heavy weather of convincing anyone to buy one so I went with Win 95.
If you can't make images with the thing I'm not much interested which is one reason why I didn't take the plunge earlier. The imaging side of computing seems to have reached a more usable and feasible point. And I've had a lot of fun with scanning photos and drawings and sweet wrappers. I spent a lot of time working on a series of pictures, getting the hang of the graphics programmes, which culminated in the exhibition at the Halesworth Gallery in July. This is detailed elsewhere on this site.
Part of my aim was to put up a web page of the show at the same time. Things got a bit complicated. I went for a Tripod page because of the templates which I thought would be quicker. I made a piece of paper in cyberspace and went and looked at it a few times but the template process was too limited and fiddly. I decided to use Claris Home Page which worked well and I managed to get a monster web page of huge images up and running in time.
I made pages for my co-exhibitors and I've carried that on so I'm sort of running a web page for the Gallery as well at the moment. I've reorganised the thing once with added GIF animations and extra pages.
Next I want to sort it out so that it looks a lot cleaner and quicker and put up stuff about my various art and exhibition organising activities and to try to get a bit slicker at all this. I've also got a web page for my son to put together.
As a set of possibilities I'm fascinated but the actual doing of it is still an incredible fiddle. The variation in outcome is wierd. As a design job it's like working on a blancmange.
I'll keep trying.
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