Prof was right: Computers not passing fad

By Grant McGee: Local Columnist

“In 25 years, you will get your morning news from a computer,” proclaimed my journalism professor in 1977. “You will also need to know Chinese because that will be the predominant language of the world.”

I thought he was full of it.

Those were the days when computer monitors showed only text in white, green, blue or orange. I couldn’t see people giving up their morning newspaper or TV for a bland computer screen.

I was wrong.

I came around to getting a computer much the same way I finally caved and bought a compact disc player. I was sure they’d go away too. Then they stopped making vinyl records.

Computers emerged in my world when typewriters were electric, the mimeograph was still being used and photocopiers were still young. I was in high school. It was tucked away in the back room of the chemistry lab. It had a simple monitor and used a cassette deck for memory. The computer dudes huddled around it. They thought it was the hottest thing. I was not a computer dude.

When I got to college my roommate was taking a course in FORTRAN.

“It’s a computer programming language,” he said. “You’re gonna have to take it sometime.”

“I don’t need to know anything about computers, they’re just a fad,” I said.

The ads for personal computers came in the early ’80s. I still couldn’t see the need for a computer.

Things changed in the early ’90s. I discovered word processors. I wanted one. With a word processor, there was no more x-ing out mistakes, using liquid correction paper or retyping. Mistakes could be corrected on screen.

I encountered my first computer at work in 1995. I was interviewing for a job.

“Our operation runs on this system,” the boss said, pointing at the computer in a small room. A young guy sat in front of it.

“Can you work with it?” the boss said.

I looked at the computer. I looked at the kid. If the kid could, I could too.

I got my first home computer in 1997. Everyone was talking about the Internet. It sounded like the place for me, an information junkie. I’ve been hooked ever since. The Internet put a world of information at my fingertips. I can communicate with e-mail in minutes compared to days the old fashioned way.

I suffered withdrawal symptoms from being away from the Internet a couple of years back. I was holed up in Hazen, Ark., for two weeks for a career training session. The sixth day I hiked three miles to the main part of town hoping there’d be a public library with a computer. I needed to check my e-mail! The library was closed but the video store had a computer behind the desk. I gave the lady $5 for a few minutes on her computer. I wonder if she thought to open the first Internet café in rural Arkansas along with her video store.

These days I often say, “What did we do before we had computers?”

So it turns out my late journalism professor was half-right; a lot of us do get our morning information from computers along with a world of other stuff.

As for his other prediction, I guess I better hurry up and learn that new language. The only thing I know in Chinese is “Happy New Year:” “Kung-Hsi Fa-Ts’ai!”

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: