Navigating electronics—from the dated and clunky to the sleek and modern—students learn lessons in humility, humor, and even love.
By William E. Hill (BS ’87), Idaho Falls, Idaho
I wrote plenty of research papers my senior year, including a 20-pager titled “Signs of College Burnout: Ways to Cope with Education Stress.” I typed it using my new computer, which had something magical called a word processor. I could type and change a word on a whim, save the document and come back later, and even erase unwanted sections.
Unfortunately, the delete key got me into trouble. When I reached page 15 of my college-burnout paper, I accidentally deleted the whole thing, causing me extreme education stress. Starting over, I worked into the wee-morning hours, eventually falling asleep at the keyboard. When I woke up, my arms were resting on the desk and my pinky was on one key—leaving me 50 pages of this: zzzzzzzzzz.
By Rebecca Gehen Ausman (BS ’98), Round Rock, Texas
Early in my freshman year it became apparent that things would be a lot easier if I had my own computer, so my dad dug into the family technology archives and mailed me our IBM PC Convertible. My “new” computer, IBM’s first laptop, was designed to be carried like a suitcase, but its size and weight made carrying it around pretty impractical. It experienced frequent glitches, and I remember frantically calling home at a very late hour to see if my dad could help me recover a paper that had suddenly vanished. Other times I would lug it across campus to the computer lab to see if someone there could help me unlock its mysteries. Invariably, the lab assistant would call a coworker over to gawk at my relic. “Check it out! It has two disk drives,” one would say, and we would all share a laugh at the expense of my little antique. Despite its weaknesses, I used that computer all four years at BYU, and to me, this dated, awkward computer represented the love and support of my dad, who was always willing to help me, even from 2,000 miles away.
Entering the Digital Age
By Lisa Cullimore Anderson (BA ’00), West Jordan, Utah
While I was on my mission, the Internet took off. Upon returning to BYU, I found myself quite intimidated by this new technology. I remember sitting in a computer lab in the Harold B. Lee Library, nervously attempting to access my first website for a writing assignment. I typed in the address the teacher had given us, sat back, and waited. Nothing happened. I was mortified to have to ask for help with something that seemed so basic to everyone else, but the impending deadline won out. I reluctantly hunted down a lab assistant, who quickly discovered the problem. Apparently, you had to hit “enter” after typing the address.
By Kelly Watson Meilstrup (BA ’94), Longmont, Colo.
In 1990 I had one of just a few computers in my freshmen dorm, making my room the favorite hangout of Jon
A. Meilstrup (BS ’96) and David T. Cragun (BS ’96), two computer-science majors. They would come over every time we had visiting hours and beg to use my computer for their “programming projects”—which were mostly pranks on me and my roommate, Jennifer Duke (BS ’96).
My computer often froze and required rebooting. Jon and Dave reprogrammed it so that every time it rebooted, it would randomly select a song to play. This was cute at first, until—because there was no mute button—it started waking people while I was up late writing papers. Another time they altered my main menu to appear corrupted, and it denied me access without a password, which I didn’t know. Jon finally admitted to hacking my computer and gave me the password.
Eventually I married Jon and Jennifer married Dave, thus saving the rest of the world from their pranks.
By Rebecca Clawson Roberts (BS ’07), Surprise, Ariz.
While I was a BYU student I worked as a technology assistant in a computer lab. This was back when BYU’s printers were big and sluggish and sat behind the front desk. Students lined up and we handed them their prints in exchange for pennies, nickels, and dimes.
One day a student sent a particularly large file to the printer. She must have been late to class because she was pacing near the front desk, peering frequently over at the humongous printer. There was nothing we could do to speed the job along, but my coworker found a way to make the wait a little more bearable. He told her, “Don’t worry,” then borrowed the familiar Snow White tune and sang, “Some day your prints will come,” until she cracked a smile and was out the door, assignment in hand.
By Clyde L. Livingston (BS ’73), St. Louis
Before my wife and I were married in 1973, she often found herself waiting for me while I finished difficult calculations using a cheap, plastic slide rule. At that time, personal computers and calculators simply did not exist.
For my birthday, right before I graduated and we got married, she gave me a well-crafted, expensive Pickett slide rule with its own leather case. I was delighted, but a few days later I received a wedding present from her generous father: an HP-45 scientific calculator, which at that time cost hundreds of dollars. I carefully put that slide rule away in a safe place while I used the scientific calculator in graduate school and for many, many years thereafter.
My wife didn’t seem to mind, and we still kid each other that I always have her slide rule as a backup if the power goes out. Next to my wife, it’s the best gift I got by graduating from BYU.
A Mac-lab Match
By Benjamin K. Hewett (BA ’03, MPA ’08), Houston
In 2001 I returned to BYU after my mission and was in desperate need of a computer. My sister and her husband gave me a sleek iBook, which was both a generous gift and a shameless effort to woo me from the PC dark side. I was particularly vulnerable at the time, as my PC had not aged gracefully during my mission, so I immediately started using the gift. Unfortunately, when it came time to print a term paper, the regular labs couldn’t translate the strange Macintosh code to Word. Rumors of a Mac lab sounded promising, and I hunted it down eagerly, conscious of the ticking clock. With a few instructions from the beautiful lab attendant and a little luck, I managed to print out my paper.
It was a great little machine that served me for several semesters, but when the time came to replace it, I didn’t stick with the iBook. I did, however, end up sticking with the lab attendant—a result my brother-in-law and sister couldn’t have predicted.
FOOD COURT ESCAPADES
Though its culinary offerings have changed through the years, the Cougareat’s role as campus dining hub has held steady, providing members of the BYU community a place to grab a bite and make a few memories. Whether you spilled your soda on a term paper, snapped a selfie with a well-known Cougar, or shaped your destiny by getting a phone number, we want to hear about it. Deadline: June 6.
BYU Magazine pays $50 for stories published in First Person. Send anecdotes (of up to 300 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions may be edited for length, grammar, appropriateness, and clarity.