By: Garland Davis
March 12, 2014, is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Internet. I remember the time before the World Wide Web took over my life. I was busy working trying to build a business. I spent many hours keeping business records, maintenance records and financial accounts by hand. There were archaic computer (although they were state of the art at the time), rudimentary word processing and spreadsheet programs. I remember when my life became much easier. I bought a computer that would run a decent word processor and spreadsheet. I paid almost a thousand dollars for it and a monochrome monitor. It used the smaller floppy discs and had a clock speed of eight (whatever that means). And it was obsolete by the time I got it home.
Before I started my business I was doing business consulting and working on a Master’s degree, taking classes at night and on weekends and spending every spare moment in the library doing research for papers. I wrote numerous drafts of assignments in longhand or pecked them out on a Commodore 64, which would, if you didn’t save to a floppy disk frequently, suddenly go blank and lose all your work. This was printed out on a 9-pin dot matrix printer. My instructors didn’t like this, so I retyped in on a Selectric typewriter. Now with this wondrous machine, I have virtually every fact known to man at my fingertips. The magic is in knowing how to find it. Professors no longer want “Papers” submitted. They ask students to e-mail their work.
I had a telephone book, a Yellow Pages Book for phone numbers and a hard-wired telephone connected to the local telephone company. A call to my mother in North Carolina or my wife’s mother in Yokohama almost necessitated a second mortgage on the house. Now if I want a telephone number, I find it online and make the call on the phone I carry around in my pocket for no cost. They get you on the upfront charges.
There were fourteen TV stations and there wasn’t much to watch on TV. I can now get over seven hundred stations (that is not counting the porn) and there still isn’t a lot that interests me
Books were expensive which made it necessary to wait for the paperback version. In those days, I actually borrowed books from the library. Now I have this wondrous machine that lets me find a virtual bookstore (Amazon) from the comfort of my home. There are thousands of book available, many of them free, others at discounted prices that enable you to pre-purchase books before the publication date (I would advise waiting until the release date. The price is usually reduced as the date approaches.) This coupled with an electric book (Kindle) that the manufacture insists has enough memory for three thousand five hundred books. The books are instantly downloaded directly to the reader via the internet. No waiting or watching for the postman.
During my Navy career, friends left for other ships or stations or I left for a new station. It was always in my mind to stay in touch. Maybe a couple of letters were written or we bumped into each other in a club or waved at each other over the gunnels as our separate ships transferred stores. Soon we lost track of each other. We both retired and settled into a new life. I know, I had many service acquaintances here but only a couple that I considered real friends. Sometimes I would wonder whatever happened to one person or another, but had no way, short of hiring a private detective, to track them down.
The computer and the Internet have enabled me to reacquaint myself with literally hundreds of shipmates and to become friends with people I had never met. It has allowed me to meet, both in person and on-line, men who shared my experiences in the Asia Fleet. Though we didn’t know each other, we experienced the same hardships of war and the same liberty ports. Those experiences as young men melded us into the men we became. Those who weren’t there do not understand. Those who were there are described with one word “Shipmate.”
People who give thanks to a deity often thank him for health, long life, wealth, family and friends. I would give my thanks for this machine and the internet. It has allowed me to look back at a life I loved and to connect with old friends and new friends who lived it with me.
Soon will come the time to make the trek to Branson, MO for another reunion of a group of old men who were out there on the far Pacific Rim, who fought the Vietnam war and won the cold war.
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A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.