Memorial Church Gets A Computer

(Phyllis reminded me of this fun memory and suggested that it be included.)

I was fortunate to be employed by a leading pioneer of computer systems, Stanford University. Those early days of computers for either personal use or business were learning experiences for everyone. As part of my Music Department assignment, I was also the Choir Director of Stanford Memorial Church, and a very eager person to learn everything I could about this fascinating new computer technology, I had purchased my Tandy Radio Shack TRS-80 for my own personal use (see computers.)

Stanford Memorial Church
Stanford Memorial Church

I had often discussed my fascination with my “Trash-80” at Memorial Church staff meetings which caught the fancy of both the minister, Robert Hamerton-Kelly, and the Church secretary, Edie Bridges. Since all the documents of the Church were being typed on an IBM Selectric typewriter, they asked me if I could help set up a wonderful new IBM "personal computer" system for the Church office. I gladly agreed to do so.

IBM Selectric
IBM Selectric Typewriter

The computer was purchased and I loaded it with the appropriate software and then set about to assist Edie in learning how to adjust to the newest technological breakthroughs. It was a long process (you can imagine the hurdles which must be jumped to learn a totally new way of using office tools.) I was repeatedly called at all hours of the day and made numerous trips to the Church office to answer questions, check any glitches in software, but mostly to explain how it worked and gently "hold Edie’s hand" as she attempted to become more familiar with her new master, the strange IBM.

Edie Bridges
Edie Bridges

I was due for a sabbatical leave which had long been planned. Phyllis and I departed for the Philippine Islands as I was to teach at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City (Manila) and to conduct the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and the University Concert Choir in a concert. The sabbatical was illuminating and we thoroughly enjoyed our time spent there and subsequently in Japan and Hong Kong. The leave lasted for one full academic quarter, and then we returned to the USA.

Before the new academic quarter started, I stopped by the Church office. Edie jumped up from behind her desk and gave me a big hug and welcomed me back to MemChu. She seemed so happy to see me – even happier than my other colleagues. She excitedly told me that the computer had completely stopped working shortly after we departed for our sabbatical leave and she had been forced to return to her Selectric typewriter for the past couple of months. I asked her how the computer had failed and she told that it just quit – she could not even turn it on.

IBM Computer I
IBM Computer I

I sat in Edie's chair at her desk and turned on the computer and, just as Edie said, it would not function at all. I tried everything I could think of to get the computer to work. Perhaps there was a fuse or a switch which had failed? I worked with it for a short period of time and realized that my tiny techno-knowledge might not be sufficient to repair it. Feeling the same frustration that Edie had voiced, I got up from the desk but I was not quite finished. I looked behind the desk and saw that the computer was not plugged in the electrical outlet on the wall behind her desk. I gently pulled the desk away from the wall and motioned to Edie to come over and see what I had discovered. I explained that it was necessary for the computer to be plugged in to function! She slapped my shoulder and we all laughed for a very long time. I then plugged in the computer, turned it on, and it worked just fine. After that every time I arrived at the Church office, I always checked to see if the computer was plugged in.

Even after we retired from Stanford, we continued to communicate with Edie by both telephone and email. This was a fun and wonderful memory. Edie was a dear person and a wonderful family friend.

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