Few computers existed when my generation came of age. My first Navy duty station, the Naval Research Laboratory, had one of them for use in scientific calculations. That computer occupied an entire floor of a large laboratory building. It consisted of hundreds of interconnected aluminum chasses filled with vacuum tubes. The machine hardly ever ran more than half an hour without at least one tube burning out and shutting it down. Yet it made the computations for the first space flights conducted by the U.S. Today, my iPhone has greater capacity than that laboratory computer.
Many people my age are still reluctant to adopt the computer lifestyle. Some even seem to take pride in not spending any time interacting with electronic machines. I understand this reluctance. My children and grandchildren do seem to spend an inordinate amount of time staring at computer screens. For a time, I too resisted moving my mind into the 21st Century. However, my desire to maintain contact with my progeny finally overcame my reluctance. Like it or not, electronic messaging has become the preferred method of communication for the younger generations. I now text, have both personal and professional Facebook pages, and tweet extensively. At first shocked to receive text messages from me, my children and grandchildren now regularly exchange electronic messages with me.
When Peter the Great established St. Petersburg in the early 1700s, he called it his “Window on the West.” I look on my computers as my window on the world. Not only is a vast amount of knowledge now available at my fingertips, but a new world of human interaction also awaits my participation. E-mail and texting allow real time communications. Facebook provides instant interaction with a circle of friends that has no geographical limits. By far, my widest range of interaction with other humans comes through Twitter.
When my daughter offered to set up an electronic marketing program for FALL EAGLE ONE, my debut novel, I had no idea what I was getting into. After she set up my Twitter account, I began experimenting in earnest. I seem to have a facility for composing 140-character book sales pitches, so that soon became a part of my routine. After a few weeks, a light suddenly came on inside my head. I realized that Twitter can be an ever-expanding platform for marketing my writing. As my “followers” re-tweet my postings to their “followers,” my message spreads like the expanding ripples from a rock thrown into a glassy-surfaced pond. The more people hear about one’s work, the more sales can be expected.
I learned early on to adopt a courteous attitude in my Twitter communications. After all, good manners alone dictate that one should thank others for taking the time to re-tweet your posts or become new followers. However, the contact I feel with my followers soon went far beyond just good manners. Regular exchanges on the Internet with many of the same people establishes bonds of communication that continue to expand. A kind of friendship actually develops. My horizons have broadened to encompass other countries and other societies. I currently have over 5,600 “followers” from all over the world. My life is much richer because of these contacts. I hope that interacting with me has enriched the lives of those who read my electronic communications.
My sympathies go out to those of my generation who choose to limit their interactions to the physical world. They are missing out on a whole world of intellectual stimulation. For as long as my mind continues to work, I plan to write fiction and interact with my Internet friends. I pray that my remaining time may be productive.
Note: Warren Bell is a historical fiction author with two novels for sale either for Kindle or in paperback from Amazon.com. Both are set during WWII, with Fall Eagle One taking place in Europe, and Hold Back the Sun set in the war in the Pacific.