Leonard Nimoy – lived long, prospered, now he’s dead.

I’ve been crying because of an actor one year younger than my father – I mean Leonard Nimoy, of course, star of the original Star Trek series, as Mr Spock the Science officer of USS Enterprise.

Funnily enough, in the hotbed of hormones that was the Upper Fourth of the Henrietta Barnett School for Girls, I wasn’t a Spock groupie. No, I (ahem, this is quite hard to admit to) loved Captain Kirk. In all his chunky male glory, I had the hots for the one who keeps going off at the deep end and behaving in a very emotional manner. Mr Spock was cool. I didn’t like that. I also fancied Dr McCoy which was remarkable because he was really quite ugly – I liked him for his crustiness and medical know how.

But Spock. No. That didn’t stop me from writing two mildly pornographic Star Trek scripts and then blaming them on a friend (sorry, Katy, I still feel embarassed about that.) There was a daughter of Spock’s called Spockina, I dimly recall, and quite a lot of orgying, written by someone who had been kissed but nothing else. It was obviously ghastly crap and let’s hope it never turns up.

A year later we were all faithlessly hot on the trail of Alias Smith & Jones which was a knock off of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I was after the dark-haired gambler, Smith whereas most of my friends were hot for Jones. I wrote stories for those too – slightly better fanfic as it’s now called and one or two stories were actually quite good. I learned that if anything at all, including wrathful teachers, stopped my friends reading the stories, there was something wrong with the story. One story had them all in tears, to my utter delight.

But although I lost the lovely melty feelings in my tummy for Captain James T Kirk, I kept an interest. I was particularly fascinated by some articles about Star Trek in the very excellent science fiction mag Analog SF. They explained that Star Trek had a proper set of blueprints for the Enterprise and that writers were expected to know what each of McCoy’s magic medical thingies did (they were futuristic salt shakers, by the way). Making sure that you have specifications and a full set of Lore for TV series, games and fantasy novels is now so routine as to be banal. But back in the 1960s, the normal thing for an sf producer to do when the action flagged was chuck in another alien and an explosion. Nothing was logical. Star Trek was the first series to do that thoroughly which was one reason why it worked so well, despite occasional dismal Monsters of the Week episodes. There was an underpinning logic that held it all together. Gene Roddenberry, the series devisor, had served in the US Navy and also had a feel for how Starfleet Command might operate – which JJ Abrams doesn’t. You got the sense of an actual Starfleet behind the USS Enterprise in the old series.

Also could I just say that it’s nice that nobody in the original series ever went near a gym. They’re all positively weedy compared with the pumped up kids in the Star Trek reprise. They looked like real people. Mr Spock in particular had arms like spaghetti.

And of course we all looked at what they had in the Star Trek universe and we wanted it: we wanted communicators and we wanted sliding doors and we got them. I love the delicious story of Roddenberry being rung by a major door manufacturer and asked how they got the sliding doors to slide in Star Trek. “Oh, we have scene hands behind the scenery moving them…” I believe it was only 18 months later that the first real sliding doors appeared, without the scene hands. I’m very annoyed that we still haven’t got the dilithium crystals sorted.

Spock I now realise was many fascinating symbols, but let’s remember one crucial thing: at a time when it was still against the law in some southern states for black and white people to marry and have babies, here was a half-alien, half-human hybrid being alien and human on primetime tv. That the man playing him was Jewish, just added to the delicious stew.

My one complaint – I never liked his greeting. The Vulcan salute was fine – but “Live long and prosper.”? How dull. How small-minded.

I much preferred (and still prefer) Captain Kirk’s clarion call, complete with split infinitive. “To boldly go where no man has gone before!” Ta DAH dah dah dah dah DAH…

ICT Procrastinationitis pt 3

I was going to go on about the 1980s brave new world of word processors. I was going to explain how I started off full of enthusiasm until I discovered the horrors of learning how to use things like the um… Philips 5something or other and the Canon something else. How on one system, hitting F6 would reformat the paragraphs and on another systerm F6 would reformat your hard disc. How you had to memorise a series of ctrl + commands which kept changing. How incredibly easy it was to wipe everything you\’d just spent all day working on. How you used 5 inch floppy disks which smelled weird and have now succumbed to mould.
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I ended up learning to use a Vydec which was about the size of Spock\’s station on Star Trek and had green letters on a black screen. It is now so totally forgotten, there isn\’t even a mention on Wikipedia. This was latest technology at an American lawyers firm in the City. I spent most of my time typing and retyping the specs for a new battletank engine (based, I think, on an enlarged two-stroke motorbike engine) for the senior partner who was utterly unable to string more than three words together without having to correct four of them. I don\’t think he liked me generously offering to just write the damned thing for him. I\’ve no idea whether he was a better engineer than lawyer, but he was not happy in the law. Eventually they fired me – after being a lot more patient with me than I would have been – and I never touched a Vydec again.
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So Steve Jobs was certainly a genius but my experience of ICT is utterly different from that of most youngsters who start using computers in kindergarten and usually win. This means that when I\’m offered a list of choices I have no idea what to choose and I panic if I don\’t find the thing I want where it\’s supposed to be on the screen. This is because I\’m subconsciously convinced that I only have to hit F6 the wrong way and I\’ll nuke the Western world.
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Be patient with me. I would much rather write books than learn how to handle WordPress and set up an ebook. Maybe I should do a website translating Computerish words and try and give better instructions than the ones I\’m finding at the moment which assume blandly that you already know what a WYSIWYG is.
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Obviously it\’s a kind of poisonous insect found in New Zealand. Everybody knows that.

ICT Procrastinationitis pt 2

Once upon a time (and a very good time it was) there was a girl who loved watching Star Trek. She was embarassingly in love with Captain Kirk, quite fancied Mr Spock and spent most of the time she should have been doing her homework reading her way through her father\’s massive stash of science fiction, including early Analogs and Astounding Science Fiction magazines going back to the Fifties.
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This meant she was very excited when the school announced it was going to spend the requisite vast amount of money and get a computer, one of the first computers in schools ever.
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When the thing arrived she snuck into the classroom where it was kept and sat down in front of it. \”Computer!\” she said to it, commandingly.
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It said nothing. Later the maths teacher explained that if you wanted to get it to do anything you had to write a programme for it. In fact programming it to do long division was extremely difficult and slow and involved flow-diagrams and binary coding and something monstrous called hexadecimal.
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The girl was bitterly disappointed. She carried on turning her large maths textbook sideways and opening it so that she could pretend the lefthand page in front of her was a screen and the righthand page was really a keyboard. She called her new invention the compubook and was quite annoyed when somebody else invented it again many years later and called it a laptop.
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Yes, folks. I invented the laptop-concept.
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I did try to learn how to program the computer, but found it too frustrating and incomprehensible. You clearly needed to be able to Do Maths, which I couldn\’t because of the evil School Maths Project (whose textbook had formed the prototype laptop). So I went back to drooling over film actors (I\’d moved on a bit from Star Trek) and pretending I was piloting spaceships past dangerous black holes and dealing with computers that, when addressed, responded briskly \”Working!\”
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I\’m still waiting for that.

ICT Procrastinationitis

I\’m extremely cross with the Financial Hack at the moment – he\’s been taking the piss out of me because I promised to learn how to use WordPress properly and Paypal and all that some time ago. He alleges it was around July 2011. And although I\’ve slowly done a few things – hello, Paypal button! Hello extra pages! – these in fact amount to diddleysquat (ie more than F.A. but definitely less than a hill of beans).
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What makes me particularly annoyed with him is that he\’s right. I have been utterly wet about it. Last year I actually made a New Year\’s resolution to get better at and comfortable with ICT. I did a brilliant course at Link into Learning at my local library which was pretty much tailor-made for evening-out the large gaps between the bits of computing I was familiar with (email, word processing) and the bits I wasn\’t – (websites, research and buying stuff online). However.
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It wasn\’t enough. Now I have to get really good at doing it because I can\’t bear to hand over large wads of cash to other people to do things just because they know more than I do.
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Yes, I\’m fully aware that this post is actually more procrastination. OK, all right. I\’m doing it now. I am. Honest.
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Tomorrow (or whenever) I will explain why ICT is so hard for me.