Writing 20 years ago meant something different than it does today.
I worked a full-time, demanding job in Eldridge, Iowa which meant a 67-mile, one-way commute on days I worked in the office. I managed dedicated fleet operations in Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo, New York, Chattanooga and Knoxville, Tennessee, and consulted on other projects in Georgia, Texas and Iowa. I traveled a lot.
Our daughter was in high school along with everything that meant. I participated in her activities as best I could and felt successful to a degree. I missed a lot of her events because of my travel.
The writing I did was mostly related to work, journaling at home, email, and a few separate pieces. I’m re-discovering my writing from that period because of the current project. While I wrote an increasing number of emails, kept a journal, and wrote a lot of business correspondence, it was not the kind of writing I wanted to do.
We bought our first home computer in April 1996 and four years later each of the three of us had a personal computer. The one in this photograph (behind the Oxford English Dictionary) was from a company called Computer Renaissance in Iowa City, where they built the CPU. We used Compuserve as our internet service provider and I had an email address through them.
By 1999 I ran a telephone line with a dual jack to our daughter’s bedroom so she could have access to the internet for her used computer and an extension phone. I sent her this email.
I figured out that you would probably check your e-mail when you got home from school. I hope you are enjoying having the computer located in your room. Once the monitor gets fixed (it is in Minnesota) then you will really be set up. Remember that for now, we do not plan to get a printer, so copy to disk and we will print on one of the other printers.
Please use the computer wisely. So often, people get bored with life and become cyber worms. It is ok to use the computer for learning and fun, but remember that you have a life outside the computer. When I first got involved with a home computer, I found myself very busy with looking at stuff and installing hardware and software. I did not do as much as I would have liked with the actual software. Don’ let this happen to you.
Anyway, have a great evening, and hopefully if you are looking at this, you have your homework done.
Love, DadPersonal email, Feb. 2, 1999
When we moved to Big Grove Township we did not have enough money to finish the lower level of the split foyer house. I set up my desk in the unfinished space on moving-in day and moved it around a couple of times through the years. We still haven’t finished the lower level. My writing space has been more like a campsite than an actual room. Even today, when I have walls around me, it retains a temporary quality.
In 2000, everything was connected by wire. I ran a new phone line downstairs and the printer and scanner were connected directly to the CPU. It was on this device I printed countless briefs filed in the Bush v. Gore U.S. Supreme Court case after the 2000 election. When this photograph was taken I had not re-activated in politics. That would happen after Sept. 11, 2001. After that I would use this space for political work as well.
Compared to today, the CPU I used was primitive. Ten years after Microsoft introduced Windows 3.0 I was still using MS-DOS for certain functions on this machine. It was what I learned while working at Amoco Oil Company. I remember the conversion to 3.0 during the period 1989 to 1991 as Amoco was an early adopter. If I was a computer geek, it was only because I wanted to understand how software worked, and how I could use it in my life. In retrospect, the computer work took time away from writing. It wasn’t until I started a blog in 2007 that I would figure how to best write using a computer.
As the breeze blew through the open windows I felt at home in this writing space. An unfinished house, a busy career, and a teenage daughter left little time to use it. Our daughter took the photograph, catching me surprised while I focused on some now unknown computer project. That space served for a while.