22 October 2012

Technology Challenged

Jan GrapeI've mentioned many times that I'm technology challenged. After talking to many writer friends through the years, I've discovered that I'm not alone. I learned to use a computer back in the early80s. Yep, the first computer I owned was a Kaypro. It was only a word processing and it used a large 5 1/4 inch floppy disk. The computer and the printer cost around thirty-eight hundred dollars. Yeah, really.

The next computer I had was a PC called a Comp-u-Add, I think it was around 1985 or so. It still mainly was only word-processing. If it did anything else I don't remember. I may have been able to used AOL then but not really sure. I bought my first desktop from Dell. Things were becoming more sophisticated. This computer used a 3.5 in diskette. By this time, I'm using AOL, and goodness AOL was all the big rage.

I also had a fax machine and had a dedicated phone line. I hate to think of how much I'm spent over the years for computers and electronic equipment. And could only utilize a small amount of intelligence these things could do. I remember also buying a Dell laptop along about then. The operating system was DOS. I took my laptop with me when I went to visit my daughter in Nashville, TN. My grandson, Riley was 5 years old and he and I played a few games on the laptop. A short time later, I'm back in TX, Riley's father was given a laptop at his sales job but there was no manual given out that day. My son-in-law got home and turned on the computer and couldn't do anything to make it start-up. He tried several things he thought might work but nothing did. Riley (age 5) sat watching his dad and finally said, "Nana always types 'dosshell' first." His skeptical father totally frustrated finally typed DOSSHELL and his computer came to life.

So at this point you'd think I was a computer expert...NOT. I could use Word Perfect processing program but about all I could do was type my stories, cut and paste. I learned to integrate addresses and work the mail program. Other writer friends still thought that was fantastic because they couldn't do that. I was able to write several short stories on the computer. That was a big step up from typing them on an electronic IBM Selectric typewriter.

I wrote my first book on my Dell laptop and Desktop. I could go back and forth, copying them onto the diskettes and keep them up to date. I made several back-up copies of everything and learned from a writer friend in CO to keep a copy in the freezer. If your house burned, chances were that diskette would survive. We all worried that we'd somehow lose our work. Computers crashed and things got lost and what would we do if that happened?

We were in New Mexico volunteering as camp hosts for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) down in the very bottom of the Rio Grande Gorge when I bought my second Dell laptop. This was probably 2001. It was delivered in Taos at the main BLM office and we were 16 miles away. As soon I we could we drove into down and I was so excited to have a new laptop. Laptops were the way to go when you lived in a 31 ft. Fifth Wheel RV. No room for a desk or desktop.

By now I could get online and transfer a file to the publisher and they could send it back with suggestions for changes but the final copy editing was still done and printed up in hard copy and paper. When you sent a final manuscript in back in earlier years, you sent a hard copy and a diskette.
So being able to send a mss online was seemingly high tech and in reality it was at that time.

Flash forward to current time. I still haven't learned much about computer operations...as Rob and Leigh can testify. I had so much trouble trying to get my blog article written and up and online that Rob finally wrote some step by step instructions for me and I have to use them every time. Here are my recent technology challenges.

There's a lady I heard about in ME who will format your books into the correct files so they can be uploaded to Nook and Kindle. I know there are people all over the place who do this, but she was recommended by a writer friend so I contacted her. She wrote me back saying she could do it and began spouting off technological things for me to do. I wrote back saying...wait, please. I have no idea what you're talking about. I'm very technology challenged. She wrote back saying, no problem. I've hand-held many first-timers, but we'll get it done.

First, I had to find a copy of my first book, written on my first laptop. Call me crazy but I still have all three of my old laptops. I looked on my second oldest and couldn't find the 1st book. I did find the second one and after a few tries managed to copy the file to a flash drive. Put the flash drive in the proper slot on my current desk top, copied to desktop and sent it to Pam. Whew...that wasn' too bad.

Next she wrote saying we needed to come up with covers for the books. I had sent actual copies of both books. I more or less had designed the cover for the 1st book published in 2001 and the publisher did a variation of that cover for the 2nd one published in 2005. In between years Five Star published a collection of my short stories (Found Dead In Texas). So I'm frantically searching for jpegs of the covers and can find pictures of the covers on these old laptops but they were in PDF not jpeg. I had at least learned a few years what a jpeg was but not how to produce one or anything.

While trying to find a copy of my first book (and she said Word Perfect was okay) I found it, but the oldest laptop would not take a flash drive. I got an e-mail from Pam saying she had the hard copies of my books and the file I had sent to her only had 16 chapters and the book had 21 chapters. I thought I had sent my final file to her...but NO, wasn't so. While still searching for the first book and have no idea how to get it off the old laptop. I came up with the idea of taking the laptop to a computer store (not a big box store, a small help place) who said they could convert the copied diskette file to a flash drive. I take it in and learn that this file is only 16 chapters. Back on the way home I realized that I had only saved the 21 file chapter file to the computer not to the diskette. (See how challenged I am.)

Back home again, I discover the correct 21 chapter file on the 2nd laptop and the also full file of the whole mss for the first book which I thought was not on this 2nd laptop (again challenged.) I have no idea how I missed it the first time. I had been sure both books were on the 2nd laptop when I began this process (challenged again). Believe it or not, I got the files to Pam, and her son was able to scan the book covers into something that can be used and things are finally looking up. I'm currently proof-reading the 2nd book because it was the first file she had ready. And actually finding typos in the book not the file. So will try to get those corrected so the e-books will be in better shape all around.

You who are computer knowledgeable folks are probably laughing by now. I don't blame you. My friend Pam is hand-holding me. Some of the notes she writes she's dumbed down (the best she can) the technical words and phrases so I can understand. Otherwise I have to write back and say...I have no idea what you're talking about.

I am about as dumb as a horned toad when it comes to technology. But I am still learning. My story and I'm sticking to it.


  1. Jan, your column this AM makes me feel that we are very much alike. I still have to ask one of my sons or grandsons to do a lot of what I want my current computer to do.
    Are Riley and your Alien the same grandson?

  2. Jan, I think you are adventurous using what geeks call the 'bleeding edge' of technology. And you did all the right things, not only keeping backups, but keeping the computers! Well done!

    And if you still have your Kaypro, you could probably sell it for more than you paid for it. They were 'ruggedized' machines designed to be hardy.

  3. I think you're pretty smart to have kept the laptops and gotten your files out of them!

  4. You're doing better than I was! I thought i was saving stuff to disc but I was just saving it on my harddrive! I sent a story off on disc to somebody, they said the disc was empty and i couldn't figure it out!! Then, my 'puter went nuts one time and started erasing what I put on!! Oh yeah, my adventures in computerland should make people laugh too, mainly because we've all been there!

  5. Jan, you are way ahead of me! My only hope is is a HAL, ala "2001--A Space Odyssey". Maybe if I could just talk to the damn thing everything would be okay!

  6. Um, Jan, have you checked whether you have the RIGHTS to those book covers? Even if rights have reverted to you from the publisher, they usually hang onto the cover art. And David, if you really like to talk to computers, you're welcome to come over and talk to the computers who call me constantly on my cell phone, usually when I'm eating dinner or waiting for an important call, and invite me to do all sorts of things I have no desire to do regarding my electricity and phone bills and my bank accounts.

  7. Your column hit home with me. I'm still trying to figure out how a digital clock works. If it weren't for my 13 year old granddaughter I would still be using carbon paper. That can be lost, too. But it's harder to do.

    Good article.

  8. Hey, you're three steps ahead of me, Jan. After all, I'm still on aol dial-up! LOL

  9. My first computer was an Epson, running Valdocs, the first attempt at a suite of software. Way too ambitious for the 3 1/2 bit hardware. Ah the good old days of needing to format 5 inch floppy!

    Jan, if the IT people at work knew I was giving someone technical advice they wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry, and would probably do both.

  10. Yes, I've got o be certain on thecovers. The first book, I actually put it togethr..the photo of the Austin Visitor's Bureau said I couold use it for $25. The Austin police badge the Police information officer have me permission to use. When Five Star was ready to pay te Visitor's Bureau all they wanted was a signed copy of my book which I took to them. For the 2nd book they used just about the same picture but just moved it in closer. And they changed the Austiun Police Badge to silver which is a prttier badge. So don't think I'll have any problem with either of those. The 3rd book is a collection of my short storeis FOUND DEAD IN tEXAS,and I'll probably have to get permission from the artist to use it. The 4th, which is my 3RD novel but a stanalone, not my series. I'll also have to get permission for. And I think an artist did that one too so will have to see what I can work out. But none of this should be difficult. aT LEAST I HOPE NOT.

  11. ok, now I need some instruction. How to I tag some one on fac book? I can do it on a picture but tagging a person...I think it's to write their name as @jangrape in the body of the comment and that's what does it. Is that right?
    And how do I endorse someone on Linked in. Ive had 3-4 people endorce me and 2 have asked me to endorse them. HEELLPP!!


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