Electronic Goddess by Anne Baird

At seven a.m. this morning, I switched on my computer to read my email. I checked my bank balance, and shot an e-card off to a friend whose birthday I’d nearly forgotten. (An e-card service to which I subscribe reminded me. Whew!) Then I trotted out the door for my daily walk.

Home again, I showered, ate a bite of breakfast, threw a load of laundry into the washing machine, and plopped down with a cup of coffee to read the news online. I get much of my information about the world from newspaper and political blogs on all sides of the political spectrum. Who needs newspapers piling up on the floor? Who has time to endure commercial breaks?

I paid a few bills online, checked out a question I had about a new medication prescribed for my husband, sent an Amazon gift certificate to our grandson who’s a great reader, and briefly trolled offers from LL Bean and The Gap for upcoming family birthdays and Christmas gifts. I responded to invitations to various events, reviewed my youngest daughter’s amazing new website for her business, Musical Theater Los Angeles, then settled down to the serious business of the morning: writing a piece for AmazeMagazine about the digital revolution that has spawned that phenomenon of the 21st century, the Electronic Goddesses.

Before writing a word, I reviewed my Googled information on the evolution and significance of this revolution. The variety of articles I’d pulled up from expert sources was staggering. Statistics were mind-boggling. The growth of the use of the Internet, in all its thousands of applications, is almost beyond belief.

Not a corner of our lives remains unaffected by this revolution. Communications, banking, news, shopping, health care, business, politics, fund-raising, voting, payment of taxes, job searches, and the delivery and consumption of culture, including music, art, and books, is all available online. We search for love on websites like Match.com or E-Harmony. Even terror has gone digital, with organizations such as Al Quaida maintaining websites and blogs that teach and preach the techniques of terror to their disciples. Governmental digital surveillance teams seek to track, anticipate, and frustrate their plans for mischief and murder before they occur. If ever there was a time when computer literacy is a matter of life or death, this is it.

The world has gone digital, Goddess! And while there are problems associated with it, such as the online piracy of music CDs that has delivered an almost mortal blow to the music industry – the cat is out of the bag, and there’s no stuffing it back. Not that those of us who are dependent upon the wonders of the Internet for the conduct of our daily lives and businesses, would ever wish to do so.

How did this happen?

The history of the computer stretches back to the 19th century – even further, if you wish to include early calculating “machines” such as the abacus, which anticipated the number-crunching capacity of modern calculators by thousands of years.

Englishman Charles Babbage designed a Difference Engine in 1833 to calculate logarithms. But despite 40 years of work, his creation was never built. In 1941, war prompted the next huge technical breakthrough, as it often does. Alan Turing designed the Colossus 1 computer to help the British crack Nazi military codes in World War II, which helped win the war. By 1947, he published an article called “Artificial Intelligence,” suggesting that the potential of computers went far beyond their original calculating and decoding uses. Computers exploded beyond the world of mathematical calculation and probability into spheres that now touch every aspect of our lives.

In 1975, Bill Gates, a college dropout, and his friend, Paul Allen, founded Microsoft. That same year, the first computer store opened in Santa Monica, California, not far from where my family and I lived. In 1977, Steve Jobs founded Apple, and the personal computer took off. By 1980, the total number of computers in the USA exceeded one million units. By the late 1980’s, that number exceeded 30 million. Now, twenty years later, a school that doesn’t include computer training as part of the normal curriculum, with computers in every classroom, is considered disadvantaged. Children who aren’t computer literate are held to be illiterate in ways that will seriously impact their ability to get good jobs. Adults who don’t have those skills are also disadvantaged. Just look at the requirements in the Want Ads, for all but the most menial physical labor!

My own journey toward becoming an Electronic Goddess did not begin well. It started in the early 1980’s. Our first computer was an IBM monster, that arrived with a manual as thick as the Manhattan Telephone Directory. Every single direction had to be entered manually, using a numeric code that you were expected to memorize. Engineers loved and understood this machine. I did not. I covered it with a decorative tablecloth, and put a plant on top of it, to try to make it look like a regular piece of furniture.

A year later, a friend who was a top-of-the-line NASA engineer and programmer dropped by. Horrified by my cowardice, he whipped off the tablecloth, and forced me to sit down beside him. He showed me the basics. I never looked back. Thankfully, Apple and icons caught up with me soon after I limped, kicking and screaming, into the digital age. Now I wonder how I ever survived without my Mac!

As the founder and creator of GODDESS CARDS, “Because Every Woman is a Goddess!” I depend upon computer skills for every aspect of my business. I create and paint images by hand, from pure imagination. (A pre-digital vestigial skill.) But I size and prepare my paintings for the printer, and for my website and newsletter, online. Stories that go with every goddess card are researched online, instead of in the library stacks. With a flick of my mouse, I access information from sources all over the world.

As for Inventory, Shipping, and Receivables, that will soon be done online as well. (I’m ashamed I’m still lagging here.)

Most amazing of all for me is that, at this time of economic meltdown and stress, I can make my GODDESS CARDS more affordable, and easier to send than ever, simply by going virtual!

In a few weeks, GODDESS CARDS will hatch a sister site, E-GODDESS CARDS: For the Goddess in a Hurry. For a modest annual fee, people will be able to sign up and send as many cards as they like for a whole year.  Electronically. No more need to order online, with necessary minimums. No more waiting for cards to arrive at your house, as the clock ticks steadily closer to your best friend’s birthday.

For my part, I’ll no longer need to consume scarce and expensive resources of paper and ink to print out new paper cards – or to purchase the petroleum-based plastic sleeves that protect their vibrant colors. Instead, my new virtual card company will function as a paperless company. Green at last! We’ll have zero impact on the environment. Except for the cyber-space environment. And I’ll be able to create as many cards as I like for my goddesses. How great is that?

My regular GODDESS CARDS company will continue. There’ll always be a place for real cards! There’ll always be people who prefer to mail a hand-written greeting to loved ones. I celebrate that gracious impulse and will continue to honor it with my original company. But for those of us who are work-and-pocketbook-challenged at this difficult time, the day of the Electronic Goddess has arrived.

Back to the computer!

When I’ve finished this article, I’ll Spell-Check and proofread it online, then email it, together with illustrations in jpeg form, to Valery, Founder and Editor of AmazeMagazine – a huge Computer Diva in her own right.

Then I’ll rest a bit. Perhaps I’ll check out a cheap but cheerful restaurant online for our next special occasion. I’ll Map Quest it, to discover the fastest and most efficient way to get there. I’ll scan reviews for the latest movie, or reserve a video at the video store, or at the public library, for cozy and affordable home entertainment.

To the Electronic Goddess, nothing is impossible. The world, with all its richness and glory, is no further away than the keyboard at your fingertips.