Once again I’m the caregiver, hugging and holding on while my elderly desktop PC struggles. Sometimes it remembers what computers do, but it often forgets how to do it. It is running out of time. I will miss it because it contains my treasured PageMaker, which I bought about 15 years ago, and other programs too cranky for installation in today’s Windows 10.
Soon I’ll switch to my backup laptop. I’m not at ease using a laptop keyboard with its relatively large space in front of the keys. My first computer was an Apple, a generous gift from Our Sunday Visitor and its associated Noll Printing Company when I retired from their boards around 1983. My son David has it now.
It wasn’t easy to get this old Dell online this morning.After it connected I read in Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac that 11/12/1889 is the birthday of DeWitt Wallace. Wallace and his wife created The Readers Digest, which once sold nearly 30 million copies in 15 languages. When I was in junior high school The Reader’s Digest contained no advertising, and we kids were encouraged by our English teachers to buy a copy each month for 15 cents.
When I was 12 I was teased about my enthusiasm for this magazine. After all, it was not like being a fan of The American Scholar or Foreign Affairs. The Digest provided ideas and funny stories and shortcut books. Heinz condensed soup. The Wallaces condensed books. Someone once wisecracked that the American Catholic bishops ended an annual meeting and headed for their hotel rooms, copies of The Reader’s Digest in hand. If they’d all been carrying The American Scholar, they’d have been rapped as elitists.
I saw a current issue was when I was in my dentist’s waiting room. It was not the magazine of DeWitt Wallace’s time. I haven’t read it in more than half a century, but it was just right when I read it in the 1930s and when I worked for it for half a year in the late 1940s. First came an invitation to have lunch with DeWitt and Lila Acheson Wallace in their Pleasantville, New York, offices. Then they offered me a three-month assignment at a dazzling $500 a month, and I took it.
Everything changes. The magazine that enlivened English classes more than 75 years ago is different from the one that’s published now. My computer doesn’t go back 75 years, but computers age more like faithful dogs and so it is allowed, under the laws of political correctness, to be sentimental about them.