Computer memories


David Farrar is at the New Zealand Computer Society’s 50th anniversary conference.

When mentioning this on The Panel on Afternoons on Monday the question of when the first computers came to New Zealand was raised.

While preparing the daily history posts I’ve noticed references to computer technology years earlier than I was aware of them.

The first memory I have of computers was in my last year at school, 1974, when one was introduced to the maths department. But I didn’t actually get my hands on one until I started work on the Oamaru Mail in 1979.

Reporters still used typewriters, but after our work was subbed it was typed onto word processors for printing. An agreement with the printers’ union prevented the journalists from typing straight onto the word processors but we were permitted to use them for proof-reading.

The following year I used a word processor again when I was office temping in London.

Six years later my farmer bought me an electronic typewriter for Christmas – it held a line in it’s memory before printing and it could keep a whole page in it’s memory for editing.

Soon after that I went to a course at Lincoln where I was introduced to spread sheets and word processing. When I came home I bought a computer. At first it was used mostly by me for writing but gradually it was used for farm accounting and record keeping.

We connected to the internet in 1996. Initially it was used more for communication with friends but as programmes and connection speeds improved we used it more and more for the farm.

 I posted last week on economist Ha-Joon Chang’s theory that the washing machine did more for productivity than the internet.

When I look at just how much the internet does for us, I’m not so sure. We get killing sheets via email, and check the quality and quantity of each day’s milk collection on-line. We also do most of our banking, including wages and account payments, communicate with staff and the people who support and supply us, research markets and products and get advice and technical support via the internet.

In the last four years computers have become as essential to our operation as tractors and the internet has definitely helped our productivity.

When the washing machine breaks down it makes domestic life more trying. When the internet connection goes our whole operation slows down.

Stolen computer case closed


The bloke who stole my laptop in February has done diversion.

I was careless while paying for parking at Christchurch airport, put my case and computer down beside me when I was getting my wallet out of my bag and picked up only the case when I walked off.

When I realised this moments later and ran back, the computer had gone.

I reported it to the police and the officer went through the video footage, spotted the bloke picking up the computer and paying for his parking. The officer worked out from that what time the bloke had entered the car park, went through the video footage at the entry and from that got a registration number.

That gave him a name and address but the address was that of an ex-girlfriend who said she hadn’t seen him for a couple of years but did have an employer’s name. That turned out to be an ex-employer who gave the name of another employer but the bloke had moved on from there too.

The policeman persevered though, caught up with the bloke and invited him in for a chat.

He then asked me if I wanted him charged, saying that if so, he’d almost certainly be offered diversion. When I blogged on this, comments confirmed my view that he ought to be charged.  Keeping Stock and commenters at  Kiwiblog who picked up the story agreed.

By this time I’d got the computer back and discovered the thief had got past the password and been using it so I was even less charitable about his actions.  

The police prosecution team made the decision to charge him and offer diversion. He accepted, had to write a letter of apology (which I haven’t seen yet) and donate $500 to Women’s Refuge.

It was an expensive lesson about the need to take care of my belongings. The computer was insured and I’d replaced it but the claim hadn’t been processed when the laptop was returned so I’ve ended up with a spare – and unused – notebook.

My confidence in people’s honesty has been knocked but by appreciation of the police has grown.

Had it not been for the officer’s perseverance the thief would have got away with his actions. Thanks to good detective work the bloke who stole the computer has paid for his dishonesty and a deserving charity is $500 better off .

Case closed.

Top o’ the morning


It’s St Patrick’s Day.

He’s the patron saint of Ireland which is a good excuse to tell this true story:

My farmer was waiting for a receptionist at a hotel in Ireland when the bloke ahead of him asked if she could put his computer in the hotel safe.

The receptionist replied that the computer was too big, but she could put it beside the safe.

P.S. The Inquiring Mind celebrates St Paddy’s day with music.

UPDATE: He’s also got an Irish toast  and a cartoon.

Tech tantrum 2


The computer is playing games with me.

The previous post looked fine when I previewed it but when I posted it there was double spacing where it ought not to be and none where I’d had it.

When I tried to edit the post to improve the layout it got worse.

I could have deleted it and started again, but have neither the time nor inclination to do it now and it’s easier to leave it and just have a paddy.

But if anyone who knows anything more about blogging and computers than I do – which wouldn’t be difficult – could tell me how to avoid the problem in the future I’d be very grateful.

Mutter, mumble.

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