by Norman Schreiber
When I was nineteen my playwriting teacher, Samson Raphaelson, told me I would be pretty good once I'd lived awhile and gathered a certain degree of experience. Being nineteen, I thought I knew what he meant. Now I literally know better.
This lesson extends to my involvement with computers. I have already revealed my Atari past and the passion associated with it. I will always revere the Atari for its ability to nurture within me that sense of wonder that usually is lost with so-called maturity. The Kaypro II, on the other hand, appeals to that sense of mastery and confidence that can only be gained through experience.
The Kaypro II is a twenty-six-pound compact machine that includes computer, monitor and twin disk drives. It closes neatly into a case that travels-and so is referred to as "transportable." This ability to travel has made it appealing to many people. A friend of mine, who goes to Maine whenever he can, bought a Kaypro because he's working on a book and this seemed like an easy way to write it in both New York and Maine. I've also heard of an Angora goat raiser who takes his Kaypro to the various sheds on his farm so he can do the appropriate record keeping.
I like the Kaypro because it reminds me of reading the New York Times or the Washington Post. Just about everything is there. Or maybe it's like having an informed, not too witty companion who travels with you.
Of course, when many of us discuss our computer adventures, we really are referring to our use of storebought software. My Kaypro II came with Perfect (that's the brand name) Writer, Perfect Filer and Perfect Calc. These are eminently easy to use, but I found them a little difficult to learn. I suspect they would be less difficult to learn if the instruction manuals were (how shall I say it?) closer to Perfection than they are. As a matter of fact, I believe that Kaypro II sales spawned a mini industry: dozens of people around the country are determined to write a comprehensible user's guide.
Most of my Kaypro II activity is devoted to Perfect Writer, the word processing program. The machine is my collaborator. It allows me to find possibilities of expression and structure. It listens to my words, phrases, sentences and ideas without being judgmental. Yet it provides me with commands by which I can make my meaning clearer. Some of these commands enable me to make the page look a certain way so that I can emphasize something. Other commands allow me to experiment with my words by modifying them or moving them about. Many writers have said they write so that they can better clarify their own thoughts. That's certainly what happens when I spend time with Kaypro II and Perfect Writer.
Interestingly enough, I have gained my understanding and appreciation of my machine through its software. The Kaypro II is a discreet presence. The Perfect Writer's talents are made possible by the abilities of the Kaypro II. The machine is the perfect straight man. It is the software that performs; however, it is the Kaypro II that tells me to go ahead and explore. It makes me feel that it will be there to make possible whatever it is I want to do.
The Kaypro II does not inspire the grand careening computer passion I once knew. Instead, there is something ... not better or worse, but definitely different. As the Kaypro II travels with me, the atmosphere vibrates with calm, support and the simple understanding that I always will be helped whenever I desire to use my experience and achieve my best.
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