Computers, A look at the future from 1982

Mid-January weather in Maine brought the usual opportunities for working at home, and I found myself sliding into a series of late 1982 WCVB Chronicles to abstract that included Acc. 2716.2023, December 6, 1982.

It is a look at the new development of the personal computer and what this tool can do for the individual workers. I perked up, as the snow continued to pile up outside. I wondered how quaint the blips and green screen would seem, along the clunky keyboards and floppy disc drives.

Jeanne Blake set the viewer’s expectations of the near future with a report on the marvels of what a personal computer can do — keep a budget, word process, correct spelling and syntax, even track a weight-loss program.

She provided a demonstration and even cracked a few jokes about the differences between typing and word processing.

Several people who now were able to work from home, rather than go to an institutional office, were interviewed about the pleasures of working at home.

It was both an amusing and accurate report for 1982.

The most interesting part of the broadcast, however, came near the end, when a summer camp for grade school aged children was visited, and the campers were interviewed about their interests among all the desktop machines.  One camper was defiant about being the boss of the computer, rather than the other way around.

In a voiceover recorded while the camera panned the many screens and busy fingers, a youngster mused about the many hours that could be wasted in front of the computer screen, “when you give a human being free time, sometimes bad things result and sometimes good things result.”

He wandered into the future, saying that what scared him the most was that someone could use a computer, “and end up totally screwing up the world.”

His small hand on the keyboard and his calm voice sent a chill down my body that had nothing to do with the sleet and wind beating the windows of my house.

That child is probably in mid-life or later now. I wonder where his is, and what he is doing. I hope he is well and saving the world for his children.

–Shannon Martin