Thursday, August 14, 2008

Index Cards Versus a Computer Database
'Ha! Ha! Bit of a Dickensian scene this!' says Adam (not his real name) , when he spots me updating my short story cards.
I haven't used them before because it's only recently I've been submitting enough. The stories were just a list of titles in a computer file and (I'm glad to say) had grown in number to the extent where I couldn't remember what they were about and how many words long they were. Apart from tracking submissions I thought it might be a good idea to be able to flick through cards that had these details. Competitions are advertised from time to time and it would be good to be able to find one already written to fit the purpose. Well, that's the theory.
I was a bit taken aback by Adam's comment because I do like gadgetry. I was an early computer user because R was a salesman for BT. Adam was a colleague of R's. I quite like Adam - he has more about him than some of R's friends. R seems to pick them for how kind-hearted they are instead of for interest or novelty value. (He says my friends are far too eccentric.)
R didn't want a computer cluttering his desk at work when he had no plans to master it. Hence I was able to use it for my film dissertation in 1997. When I'd done an earlier education one in 1986 it was literally a cut and paste job, with glue and scissors and an electric typewriter, so the Tonto was a big improvement. Later I discovered 'tonto' is Spanish for crazy, and that's what you had to be to use it because it was so erratic. No mouse, so you had to have a list of key combinations to perform the word-processing functions. You also had to ring up the help desk a lot.
Now I've got a whole novel on five and a half inch floppy disks and a dot-matrix printed copy. I did that in 1987 and an still transcribing it chapter by chapter.
Adam, unlike R, is an IT enthusiast. I remember he once came to lecture to my A Level Media students on the subject of 'Future Technology' . I don't suppose the content would seem so far-fetched now.
Anyway, there I am copying up records from the back of my notebook, a good task whilst I'm waiting for R to be picked up and taken to Hever Castle. As it's the school holidays Adam is free to venture further than their usual city-centre gallery or cinema. He's not a teacher. At R's 65th birthday dinner, when he'd already been retired for 13 years, Adam's journalist wife said in her ringing Scottish voice: 'Adam, I hope that you don't think you're going to spend your early retirement doing nothing , like your friend R! I'm not going off to my work every day while you lie in your bed.' So Adam is a technician at a school.
Well, I explain to Adam that it may look Dickensian but it's very useful to have this data about the stories on cards. We had a brief chat about dedicated programmes that might be suitable but the main point was it wouldn't really be so convenient or accessible. Maybe I need to look into it, though.
I haven't got much further than titles so far. I've started a separate set for magazines that take short fiction.

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