I remember very clearly the first time I laid my eyes on a computer. It was the very first day that Gerry brought me to live with him. Right there, occupying a place of honor and reverence in our dining room was this very strange looking and smelling contraption. Of course, I was interested in it right away, and planned to examine it thoroughly as soon as Gerry left me on my own to explore, but Harry my new-found cat mentor at the Devlin household, told me that the 'electronical contraption' over in the corner was one of those things definitely off-limits. Harry, while I remember him fondly as my beloved teacher in very many cat-related matters, was completely wrong about computers. He had smelled and tasted it when Gerry had first brought it home, and found it wanting of any deep interest or merit. And there was always the fact that Gerry lavished such loving attention upon this object, almost as much as on the sacred TV and VCR contraptions, that Harry warned me that any little accident which a cat might cause to the computer contraption's delicate constitution would bring down Gerry's most severe wraith upon all cats in the vicinity. This was enough to cause Harry and me to give the computer plenty of its own 'space' at all times. To tell the truth I did nip a bit at the computer that first day, but honestly it didn't hold any real interest for me. So Harry and I left it alone.
Gerry on the other hand, has always lavished much attention, maybe even love, on his computing machine, sometimes it even made me a bit jealous, I have to admit it, sometimes I would create playful little distractions to get Gerry's attention focused back on me where it belonged.
Oh how much time I wasted before I learned the 'great secret'. At first I didn't really understand that computers could actually come to life, and when they did they were among the most interesting creatures on this planet. I have heard the theory, held by some cats, that computers didn't originate on this planet at all, that they are a foreign device dropped down on the earth by alien intelligences. Some cats believe that they are meant to subvert humankind and render it witless, ready to be easily taken over, while other cats believe that such a delightful device was sent here to provide pleasure and amusement for humans rather like delightful 'catnip' is for us felines. These, of course, are merely cat legends, and knowledgeable cats such as myself know computers for what they are, a delightful invention of humankind to facilitate communications and pleasure among all species on earth. This is the computer's awesome task. Additionally, humans have given computers a delightful personality to fulfill their difficult task. Since I have become a computer-literate cat, I have endeavored to use all of my free time and energy to master web-cruising and inter-species communication. By helping both cats and humans to understand the computers' role better, I feel I am doing my part to help in this great task. Let me know how I'm doing, dear reader.
Oh I've gotten distracted, but I promised to let you know how I first learned the truth about my electrical friend. It all happened about a year ago. Gerry came home one day with a box in his hand. I, of course, thought it was some tidbit for me. Gerry is always so thoughtful, I thought perhaps he had remembered some anniversary or other celebratory event which I had momentarily forgotten. Gerry could see that I was interested in his little package, so he told me that it was a new 'mouse' for the computer. I was astonished. A mouse. Why in all of the time that I had been living with Gerry, I had never seen the computer eat a single rodent. It didn't even seem to eat at all. Usually the contraption was silent and still, but sometimes when Gerry talked to it and played with it, it lit up and started to make very strange noises and movements. Sometimes it even seemed to make paper. Usually I left the room when Gerry played with the computer, I had better things to do after all, but sometimes I would watch the computer produce the paper from that litttle slot. Gerry really seemed to like the computer's paper. He often took it with him to work. I thougth he must be rather boastfully 'showing off the paper that his computer made last night' to his co-workers. I was a naive cat then. I regret now all of the wisdom I might have acquired by reading from those computer 'output papers'.
Anyway, after dinner Gerry finally opened the box, and this time my curiosity got the best of me, I had smelled the box and I knew there was no rodent in there. I thought that perhaps the rodent had escaped before Gerry got home and he would be disappointed when he opened the box and found that it was missing, so I sat on his lap to comfort him. He was a little surprised at my behavior since I had never shown any interest in the computer before, so in his kind way he proceeded to show me the computer mouse.
When Gerry first opened the box, he didn't seem disappointed at all even though there was only a little plastic thing in the box, like the one he already had. But Gerry was very happy while he stuck the mouse's long tail into the computer. Then he showed me how the 'buttons' on the mouse's back worked. You pressed the button and it went 'click'. Or you could press it twice and get a 'click-click' sound. Well at first I thought it must be some musical instrument. Gerry loves music and for many years he used to play the drums, which are very noisy. He's given up the drums, but even now, Gerry does tend to be a little noisy in his habits. It is one of my few complaints in our idealic life together. Yet I have always wanted to hear Gerry's drum playing. That is one of the little sadnesses of my life.
Anyway, just while I was thinking what a bit yawn this mouse had turned out to be, (it tasted awful too), Gerry pointed out to me what the computer was doing when the mouse buttons were being pressed. Go 'click' and some part of the screen would light up, but the best of all was the 'click-click' . When Gerry did that, the computer did many wonderful things. So many, I still don't know about them all. That computer just keeps on surprising me. Anyway as I watched the computer, I could see that whole worlds of stuff were moving across the screen. Sometimes there were words, sometimes pictures, and even sounds. It was truly amazing. I sat on Gerry's lap a long time that evening just watching all of the wonderous things that our computer laid before us. And after Gerry went to bed, I spent a long time thinking about what I had seen. The computer was dark and silent then, like it was when Gerry wasn't using it, but my whole world had just changed, and that computer has never looked cold or silent to me again. Now even when I've turned it off, (Gerry lets me use it by myself now), I know that the computer is just resting and preparing to bring many wonderful things into my life again tommorrow.
I remember the first time I heard this wonderful sound. Gerry was just finishing up his computer work for the day, but instead of turning off the machine when he went into the kitchen for a snack, he left the machine on. It began to make the most delightful sounds. Only listening to the music of Bach, my favorite human composer, have I ever heard anything even remotely as deligthful. I was transfixed. I stood still for what seemed like an eternity. The music continued for some minutes in a never to be repeated stream of delightful sounds. When it was over, I set in front of the computer a long time in awe waiting for more, but once it was silent, only Gerry coming back to turn off the computer, interupted my vigil.
I tried to tell Gerry what a delightful thing he had just missed and asked him to turn the computer back on. But we hadn't known each other very long then, and he didn't seem to really understand why I was so excited. Finally, when he understood what I was so excited about, he said that it must be the computer defraging itself that I had heard. He explained that the things inside of the computer get a little mixed up when it is working hard, and so occasionally the computer has to 'reorganize' or defrag itself. Gerry said this was like putting things back where they belong in our closets and cabinets when we are through using them. I was amazed at this explanation, I preen myself like all cats but I don't know how to make such a delightful sound as computers do. I've tried. These attempts have made Gerry very unhappy, he's told me that he hates the solund of the computer's defrag noise and thinks that I must be the only one on the planet who likes that dreadful screech.
Well, I've come to the conclusion that the delightful defrag jazz must be something that takes a little time to appreciate, like opera, now that is screeching. But I do encourage you dear reader to listen attentively the next time a computer near you is playing it's defrag jazz. Each piece is unique, never to be repeateed. I heard a passage of it the other day that I especially liked and I would like to repeat it for you.
'SCRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH, PAWS. PAWS, MUNCH, SCRUNCH, PAWS, MUNCH, PAWS, PAWS, MUNCH, MUNCH, PAWS, SCRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH'
I hope that I've written it down correctly for you to give you some of the joy that I experienced when I first heard it. PS. When I wrote 'PAWS', that was to convey the moments of silence which only makes the sounds which make up the jazz even more delightful.
Gerry prepared me carefully for my first meeting with Rita by explaining that her ways were a little strange, but that he thought that I would like her as much as he did. He said that she didn't quite live in the same world that most other people did, that there were many strange things that inhabited her world and these made her see things from a different viewpiont.(Hey Spirit, did Gerry really say all that stuff about me? -Rita) Gerry also said that one of the most important things in Rita's world was her computer, this was why he had chosen Rita to be my tutor. Then Gerry explained to me about Rita's infirmity, poor thing, she is allergic to cats, poor creature, I feel so sorry for her. Gerry explained that I would not be able to show my affection for her in my usual way of snuggling up, but that I would have to find new ways of being kind and showing affection while keeping a certain distance. Well, this didn't seem like it would work out very well, but I trusted Gerry's wisdom and prepared for my first lesson.
What a wonderful time that first lesson turned out to be for me. Rita seemed to be a little apprehensive at first about meeting me, but Gerry had paved the way with her by telling her how wonderful he thought I was. So she had trusted his judgment, and we both prepared for what Rita calls "the big adventure", that computing is. First she asked me about my computer experiences, and seemed very interested in what I said, but when she went to see our computer, I couldn't believe it, she actually stroked it, I'd never seen anyone do that. She really seemed to love that thing! She even talked to it, she told me she had even given her own computer a name, Rose. She dealt with a computer differently than anyone I'd seen before, so I tried to observe and learn. Rita said that you can go with the flow of the machine and travel with it to far away places, that you can learn to think like the computer is thinking. This was a skill that she seems to have been born with, since no one had to explain it to her, she just "knew". Her father had been fascinated by electrical machinery and so there may be some sort of genetic link between human and machine in her family. When I understood what she was talking and cooing about, I applied myself completely to mastering the link between cat and computer. This has been a long and difficult process for me. It has taken me exploring other regions that I never expected to see. The only way that I have been able to really enhance my cat-computer link has been thru daily exercises at the computer working in cyberspace followed by intensive private meditation sessions. This has all been a great deal of work, but the results are worth all of the effort.
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Last Updated on 21 January 1999.
Copyright 1998, 1999 by Rita Wondrak. All Rights Reserved.