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Sometimes you have to change

Back in 1995, when I began teaching college English, computers were quite a new thing. The Internet had been invented, but almost nobody had access. Just having an email address was a big deal, and (of course) nobody in any of my classes had ever tried to type a paper with a computer. The little Mac Classic above was the absolute cream of the crop (and I still think it was an excellent computer for its time). That's what we had in our classrooms.

When you think about it, the switch from a mechanical typewriter to a computer changed a lot about the way we write. Spell check was a new invention, not always reliable, but a big help. Many of us were still writing research papers in Turabian style, which requires footnotes—and suddenly inserting a footnote wasn't an agony.

The big change, though, was in the way we did revisions. In my own college days, revising a paper meant typing it out, marking it up with a red pen, then retyping it. If you were a poor typist, there was no guarantee that the new version would be much better than the previous. Now, however, we can accumulate revisions. If I type "Ashalnd Univeristy" into a rough draft, I can go back, fix the spelling, save the revision, and it stays fixed.
In 1995, computer disks were very difficult to find and expensive to buy, so the college gave everyone in English courses their very own computer disk! (You can still buy floppy disks—they will set you back about 45¢ each.)

Students struggled with these things. I remember one fellow in particular who was much more comfortable retyping the whole paper every time he made a change. He knew he could save it on a disk, but that just wasn't his way. He was much more comfortable with the idea of typing the whole essay over and over.

Moral of the story: Sometimes you need to walk away from the old, comfortable ways and learn something new. It might save you a lot of grief and time.


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