No, not back in the days when Ozzie and Harriet were huge or my cousin had his 1958 gold Chevy Impala with music notes dancing along its curved fins (he was a top shelf sax man). I’m just going back as far as the 80s, but if you measure that in computer time, it was the Bronze Age. It was also when Sue, my life-partner, and I bought our first computer-a KayPro lV
I remember it well. We’d paid a fortune for it-over three grand in 2011 dollars. And there it was, sitting on our old oak dining room table in all its then modern grey box glory. We unclamped the keyboard, which served as the cover of this 26 pound metal suitcase, turned it on, and stared blankly as its 9-inch phosphor screen lit up with a flashing green C:> in the top left corner.
We were stumped, stupefied. Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as we wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. Eventually we learned how to use the machine and Sue had an easier time writing her magazine articles (She’s now a prolific nonfiction children’s book author–www.susangoodmanbooks.com) while I churned out my first novel.
But the real hook for me was my eventual upgrade, the Kaypro 4 with a 300 baud modem. These were pre-Internet days but folks had already figured out that computers would change communication. People across the world had set up electronic “post offices” that relayed messages to and from each other and allowed those people who had free computer programs provided by the local “post office” to send and download their mail.
The Great Leap Forward, though, was the development of different interest groups that used this new form of pony express. I jumped into a writers’ circle that eventually became Pen & Brush and away we went. Although there were plenty of conversations about writing, the group became a home for open-ended discussions about all things political, religious, cultural, and of course the government.
For decades, it was the same group learning, chatting, arguing through evolving communication processes until the Internet hit and we landed on Yahoo Groups as Keyboard and Stylus. And there a few of us still remain, more as alter kockers rocking on the porch than engaging in all out debates.
But, there’s life in me yet. I’ve joined a new group that has fresh blood hungry to view the world through its many facets and a desire to express what they see.
Face (book) the Nation Open Group, housed on Facebook, was created by my college roommate Mark Kruger, now a professor of humanities in St. Louis, with the tireless help of Indira Freeman. Let me quote her description:
“University of St Louis students and non-students from the entire nation are discussing and seeking to raise awareness about national issues. Topics have included global climate change, wars, homosexuality, education, interest groups, party systems, Wall Street, banks, government power, etc. Our goal is to create a healthy, open environment where everybody has a right to talk about various subjects. We are group that wants to let every sluice of knowledge be open and set a-flowing. We respect all and believe in equality. Please become a part of this great environment.”
Since I began participating about a month ago, I’ve found the conversations thoughtful, stimulating, and very reminiscent of the old Pen & Brush. Indira’s description is pretty right-on, though there are some wild and wooly moments. The group is incredibly diverse and the opinions expressed run the full spectrum on a whole host of subjects. There are trolls, but few and far between. All in all it’s an experience that engages and one that I fully enjoy.
I say “all in all” because this “alter cocker” finds navigating through all the various topics on the page petty damn difficult–though I have found a personal method to keep track of the various subjects. But first let me explain how to participate if you’re interested:
1. You need a Facebook account.
2. Once you have a Facebook account (and I urge anyone who signs up for one to go over the privacy settings with a fine tooth comb), type “Face (book) the Nation OPEN GROUP” in the search box at the top of your page, and it will take you to where you can click on “JOIN.” (Given Facebook’s propensity to change how it does things about every twenty minutes, if you have any difficulty enrolling, just leave a note here and I’ll add you the group as my “friend.”)
That’s it. But if you have trouble with the way Facebook organizes its pages here’s my system:
I created a dedicated email address for the page. In the “Edit Settings” box on the Face (book) the Nation Open Group I have set: NOTIFY ME WHEN A MEMBER POSTS OR COMMENTS, EMAIL NOTIFICATIONS TO the email address I set up,and finally I checked the box that says SEND ME GROUP CHAT MESSAGES.
This allows me to click on emails that take me directly to the specific conversations in which I have interest.
I understand this seems like a convoluted way to screen and follow discussions, and I’m also aware that many people are reluctant to join Facebook. But if you aren’t uncomfortable with joining, or you already have a page, Face (book) the Nation Open Group is worth the price of admission. Especially if you enjoy intelligent free-wheeling conversations about a variety of important topics.
Great spirits have always found violent opposition from
mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not
thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and
courageously uses his intelligence. Einstein