Once upon a time, I was young — back in the days when gasoline sold for 18 cents a gallon, and we only had 3 TV channels (PBS didn’t really count) that you could barely pick up on your rabbit-ear antenna — and 2 competing local daily newspapers!
Yes, I am seriously older than dirt.
My visual storytelling fascination started with watching our family’s home movies. My folks filmed special and everyday events for years, starting before I was born. I have seen film of my 1st birthday, back when we lived in a trailer home following the seismic crews Dad worked on.
Once I got turned on to independent films in the late 60s, our little Bell & Howell 8mm movie camera suddenly offered amazing creative possibilities. For the cost of a roll of film and a prepaid mail-in processing envelope, I could create 3 minutes of film. You could even do slow-motion on it! No sound, mind you, so just like the first film pioneers, I started out working in silent movies.
My focus in the Radio-Television-Film department at UT in the 70s was scriptwriting, but I did take one television production course. At the time, television remained a matter of studio production, though, generally very expensive and unavailable to independent filmmakers. Portable video recorders finally hit the market a few years later, and the local public access group, Austin Community Television (ACTV) managed to get some of these early models — that used reel-to-reel videotape. This were quite tricky to operate successfully and if you accidentally popped the tape tension against the video head, you could easily break it. It would be a few years later still before videocassettes became available for portable recording.
No one’s too surprised to hear how my work with video in training also lead me to preparing presentation support materials, including video examples and computer-generated slides. I was pumping out bullet lists and pie charts and animated titles for our professional conference presentations at a steady pace —but this was before PowerPoint. Our corporate headquarters had invested in a proprietary hardware system called “PictureIt”— a couple of years before PowerPoint was even developed!
Then there was my first Macintosh. See, I married into the Mac family, since Sara had one when we met. I’d first used one prepping a newsletter in the mid-80s, during a visit to the “Apple Chapel” at UT’s School of Education. So, I was delighted that my wife had a Mac Plus I would be able to use in grad school.
Of course, sharing files and taking floppy discs to school, I eventually picked up my first computer virus and had to call tech support. After the preliminary discussion, the guy told me where to look to see what system version I was running and read that out to him.
“Alpha,”I said, reading from the screen.
“No,” he responded incredulously, “It does not say ‘Alpha.’ You cannot have an alpha system on your Mac. It’s impossible.”
“Hey, I’m just reading off what you asked me to and it says ‘Alpha.'”
There was a pause. “Where did you get that Mac?”
Admittedly, Sara had gotten the Mac from a former boyfriend who had friends working at Apple. She did allow as how it might be possible that this computer had come “out the back door” as it were. Regardless, the fellow on the tech help line finally accepted that I might actually be right — but that I would have to install the standard system, thus losing the original Alpha system.
Yeah…that’s me, older than dirt, baby, older than dirt.