Miss Brenda Gets a Computer

"Miss Brenda"  Pencil drawing by Judith Lindenau

"Miss Brenda" Pencil drawing by Judith Lindenau


One of the things Lynn and I decided was that we would give Kervin’s family a computer as a gift for being the friend and wonderful builder that he is. He thought that was a good idea—not because HE would ever use it, but because his wife Miss Brenda and his 10 year-old grandaughter would enjoy it. Miss Brenda, of course, would be his secretary—I could see the gleam in his eyes as he thought about that part.

Just before Christmas, Dell Computer had a good sale on laptops, and I ordered one. It arrived, I brought it to Eleuthera, and today I gave it to Miss Brenda.

It’s a beautiful thing, shiny black with no fingerprints and those electric blue lights that light up once it’s plugged in. Brenda’s eyes grew very big and richly brown as we opened it and turned it on. “Welcome, Brenda,” it said.

Oh, it knows who I am!”

Well, I told it you were coming” I admitted.

I show Brenda where the ‘Start’ button is, and she breathes quickly when the menu pops up on the screen. “These are all your programs,” I say. “And next Wednesday, when my internet connection comes, we’ll download some more so you can write letters and keep Kervin’s books.”

She nods. That’s what she’s supposed to do with this thing, she knows.

“”In the meantime,” I say, “We need to get you to practice getting around on a computer.” I ask her to visualize a filing cabinet in an office. I explain that the cabinet has drawers, and in each drawer there are sections, like ‘Letters’ and ‘Bills’. Within those big sections, there are folders. Perhaps they are labled with the names of each of her husband’s clients. And in those folders go the paperwork for each client.

She nods. “They have filing cabinets at the clinic,” she says.

Yes, and this is the same idea. Each of the files you are looking at now have a program in them, If you click on that file name, the program will run. Later on, when you write letters and bills and other documents, you will have to save them into a file and give them a name you will remember. But we can talk about that later at your next lesson.”

I open the Start menu again, and click on ‘Games’. “Here’s where the kids will go,” I say. “The one I like to play is Solitaire.”

I know that one!”

Good. Because you are going to play it.” I click open the game and the cards magically appear. I show her how to left-click on the cards, and how to hold down the mouse button to drag a card to the pile. I play a few cards.

Now it’s your turn.”

It only takes her a couple of tries to get the hang of moving the cards around the screen and she’s very quick to see the possible moves. Finally, she’s stuck and I show her the drop-down menu in the upper left corner: look at this! It will give you hints! And it does.

Lordy!” She moves the red five onto the black six and places the king on the blank space. “This is the first time I ever touched a computer! Ever!”

And you see what you can do? You are going to be very good at this!”

She finishes the game, not winning, but delighted that it tells her that she’s out of moves and should give up. I show her how to close out the game and shut down the computer.

You have homework,” I say. “You go home and play Solitaire until you win a game. And if you get stuck with something, your grandaughter can help you, I am sure. Then, when I get my internet hookup, you bring it back and we’ll get you some more programs and some lessons in using them. Now, go play.”

Yes, Miss Judith,” she says, obedient as a school girl, her brown eyes shining.

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