Roxanne Tellier: Slave to the Machine

january roxanneMy name is Roxanne Tellier and I am addicted to computing. There, I said it, in front whatever cosmic element you call your deity, and everyone.  I am hooked on electronic media and the Internet.

I likely wouldn’t have known the depth of my addiction if my main computer had not suddenly died on me a few days ago. Even those horrendous days off the grid during the Ice Storm hadn’t upset me as much as this week’s loss of contact with the world. Okay, it was just for a few hours until I got my little netbook up and running, but even those few hours were excruciating.

computer_addictionI’ve become so used to having access to the Internet 24/7 that I had forgotten how one lived before social media. Several times I had to be reminded that the telephone was still available for uses beyond digital information transmission. Did you know some people still actually call each other on these bulky home phones?

computer snorting And how did I find out what was going on around me, or whose birthday it was, before Facebook? How did I do research before Google? And most importantly, how did I ever write so prolifically before the emergence of cut and paste?     duke nukem forever

It all started out so innocently … I can barely draw the line from those clunky manual typewriters we had in school to the first electronic word processors. Who could ever have guessed that the wobbly graphics  of Pong could lead to Atari, Duke Nukem, and inexorably, on to Grand Theft Auto?

My entry computer addiction was to databases … how I loved to quantify and isolate bits and pieces of information! And the first computers used in business in Toronto seemed so innocent; why, I ran the entire Food and Beverage division of the CN Tower on leisure-suit-larry-1-hooker-bedrooma computer without even a hard drive, between games of Leisure Suit Larry!

But I couldn’t stop there, so soon I was working at that pinnacle of databasing, Oracle, where I was not only getting into the ‘good stuff,’ but meeting those programmers and power users who showed me the tricks of the trade.  There was no stopping me now.

My addiction only got worse in the early 90’s when a friend came over and set up a bulletin board system on my home computer. The Artsy Fartsy BBS had a lot of fans, and overnight, bbs2my computing went from casual to 24/7, and the high pitched squeal of the modem became as commonplace to me as the sound of city traffic.

I should probably not have been surprised at how easily I took to the early Internet, and its ability to connect with like minded people all over the world. Although, being mediated and routed by humans instead of bots, you might not get a response to your message or question for 24 hours or more, it was a whole new world of communication. And I wanted more, more, more!

aol disksI had to have one of the first reasonably sized cell phones, even though the cost of service per month was outrageous, and the amount of other cell phone users very small. I could write it off as a business expense, as by now I’d convinced local computer newspaper Toronto Computes! to bring me on as a fledgling ad salesperson, specializing in everything Internet. Yes, I was one of the first to bring you those plastic wrapped America On Line floppies, and then discs, that littered every big city for the next five years …

computer paperFrom Toronto Computes! I went to The Computer Paper, before joining the team starting up yet another computer rag called We Compute. The city was awash in computer buzz; everyone was jumping on the bandwagon, whether for business or pleasure. It was a golden age, and I reveled in all of it.

Working on a startup meant that I could make up a lot of my own rules, and number one was that I would do the majority of my work from my home. At Oracle, I’d routinely seen programmers sleep under their desks while deep in a problem. I worked with the same kind of enthusiasm, but I wanted to do it from the comfort of my own home, where I could work at any time of the day or night, and in whatever pyjamas took my fancy.

does not computeThe whole idea of having employees working remotely made a lot of employers uneasy, and soon enough, I had to part ways with We Compute.

The bubble was at an all time high. I had a lot of good ideas, but never broke through into the peaks of Silicone Valley. When I heard about eBay, I first brushed the concept off as unworkable. But within a few months, I started building my RoxanneShops ebay-logoempire, specializing in rare media. I soon had a driver and office staff, and searching out rarities became both my joy and my fulltime income.

Life was good until 9/11. The one/two punch of both the Twin Towers disaster, followed by the “Anthrax in the mailboxes” scare killed most of my border trade as the U.S. buyers became more paranoid and increasingly xenophobic.  And Canada was very slow to realize what a boon Internet shopping would be for the Post Office. My business failed, as did so many others at that time.

new usersBut I wasn’t done with the Internet by a long shot, as I turned to writing for obscure online publications that catered to rabid fans who were now surging onto the ‘net and searching out their own niches.

Hidden away in the suburbs, without transportation, the Internet had become both my source of income, and my closest friend. I had joined the shadowy ranks of those geeks who were plugged into the ‘net day and night, who rarely left the house, and whose spouses and children despaired of ever seeing their loved one’s face not lightened by the glow of a monitor.

child_computer_addictionIt’s a sad tale indeed, and one shared by so many of us who got bit by the bug. Misunderstood by our peers, shunned by those who disdain social media … we’d be lonely if it weren’t for the multitudes of new users daily joining our ranks. The computers and cell phones are becoming smaller, but each quarter, more features and abilities are added to the devices, as we embrace a world of selfies, bitcoins, Instagram, tweets and OkCupid. O brave new world, That has such wonders in it!

My name is Roxanne Tellier and I am addicted to computers.

= RT =

Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

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DBAWIS ButtonRoxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. After years of doing things she didn’t want to do, she’s found herself working with a bunch of crazy people who are as batshit crazy and devoted to music as she is, and so she can be found every Monday at Cherry Cola’s, completely unable to think of anything funny to say, as the co-host of Bob Segarini’s The Bobcast. Come and mock her. She’s good with that. And she laughs. A lot. But not at you.


One Response to “Roxanne Tellier: Slave to the Machine”

  1. Great blog again, Roxanne! My own computer experience began in 1984 when I was working for Seiko Time (the watch company). We had a direct INTRA-net link from our factory to the one in Japan. The screen was 12 inches wide by 18 inches tall….and once you filled the screen with text (sans mouse!) you had to transmit as there was no scrolling or ‘enter’ key!

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