ImageWhat was your first exposure to computers like? Mine was rather intimidating and unimpressive. Our junior high math teacher tried to teach us a computer language in June of 1971. We were then allowed to write a program on a dumb terminal at the school. All it consisted of was a keyboard and a printer. No monitor showed us what we typed or gave us prompts. Unlike Bill Gates, it held no attractive possibilities out to me.

I played a video game on a friend’s computer ten years later. It used the TV as its monitor. That was mildly interesting but I couldn’t play the fast-moving games. I also bought a Vic 20 in 1984 from a friend. Apart from playing the games, I didn’t have much use for it.

When I used a program to determine what sort of work I was suited for in 1984 and 1987 at a work counseling place, the CRT monochrome monitor was a pain for me to read. I felt I’d never be able to use computers as I had such difficulty with them.

When I heard from somebody about the CNIB‘s screen readers for computers, I applied for a grant to receive one. Then I took an MS DOS and WordPerfect 5.1 course at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology¬† (NAIT). The school had one PC with a hardware voice synthesizer and a program called Vert Plus. It made using the computer easy for me.

In January of 1993, the CNIB awarded me a screen reader. I paid a quarter of its price while the institute paid for the rest. The next month, I proudly set up my IBM clone 386SX PC. Since I didn’t know how to install the screen reader, a friend came over one afternoon in April.

Thanks to the previous year’s training course, I soon wrote my own letters on the computer and printed them out on the dot matrix printer. I only had an amber monochrome monitor at the time but it helped me see if my paragraphs were indented properly. For the first time in my life, I had a computer that I could actually use.

When I look back at those days, I chuckle at how I felt so proud of that simple PC. It had only a hundred megabyte hard drive, two megs of memory, and lacked a CD drive. Even so, I used it until the autumn of 2005 when its motherboard died. For a second hand computer that I bought for $700, I certainly got my money’s worth out of it.

This might surprise you but I wrote my first two books on that old PC. You can check them out at the Bruce Atchison’s books page. Meanwhile, I have a new book just published called How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Amazon and Barnes & Noble distribute the e-book edition while Virtual bookworm handles the paperback version.


Author: bruce Atchison - author

I'm a legally-blind freelance writer as well as the author of three memoirs and scores of articles. Contact me for details.


  1. My first experience with a computer was in the 1980’s when I was in college. As part of an educational psychology class, we worked with some sort of logic program in the computer lab. Of course the computer I used had no screen reader so someone helped me. Isn’t it remarkable how far we’ve come since then?

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