This article was written on 31 Oct 2013, and is filled under Volume 17 Number 3.

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When I was young, I had to walk 10 miles in the snow to get to school….

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by Dr. Dee McGonigle

Editor in Chief


McGonigle, D. (2013). Editorial: When I was young, I had to walk 10 miles in the snow to get to school….Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI), 17 (3). Available at  http://ojni.org/issues/?p=2862


You know you have heard the stories of people complaining of how hard they had it before modern technology eased the life of those that followed. Well as I think back on the trek to today’s nursing related technologies, we did have to walk 10 miles in the snow, uphill.

My first memories began with the sight of a huge main frame computer that seemed as if it went on forever and ever; it actually took up an entire floor of the building. We communicated with the computers of the day using punch cards. They really were time savers as long as they were not mutilated, bent, folded or if you did not drop your stack of cards.

When I moved from the stacks of punch cards to my own Apple 11e in the early 80’s with its 128 k – I thought I fell into a sea of chocolate. Can you imagine opening the box? I ripped into it like it was an unexpected gift, envisioning how many tools were now at my disposal and how easy my job would become. My parents, on the other hand, were scratching their heads and looking baffled; they could not believe that I spent a “ton of money” on a “goofy looking typewriter” since they just sold one at their garage sale for $5.00.  Ignoring their comments, I focused on my bounty. It was floppy drive driven using a 5 ¼ inch floppy disk. Yes, it did not have a hard drive! Yet, it made my life so much easier with the ability to save, edit and print documents without using white out or eraser tapes.

The personal computing was wonderful but then we could connect with others using electronic mail.  It was a clunky system that had the “MS-DOS” looking interface. You had to know the commands or language such as “buck” meaning to “forward” in order to use it.

Apple had introduced the GUI computer; it had a graphical user interface. Enhancement after enhancement evolved personal computing. The world was divided into Apple users and PC users. Sharing was attempted but virtually impossible across these platforms.

The Internet dawned and client/server technology eliminated the platform wars. Mac fans and PC supporters were united in this new cyber world. In the early 90s, I was one of the first 12 people at Penn State to use the Internet and HTML to program web pages. Yes, in order to create a web page you needed to know and understand programming language.

Now, you can type in what you want and drag and drop your info, graphics and icons onto the page and voila, you have a web page without much work at all. Software interfaces with other packages and plays nice in the sandbox to facilitate our work. The power of social networking tools has pulled the world together and enhanced our ability to disseminate large amounts of information instantly. In my current role as a Professor at Chamberlain College of Nursing, I work in a virtual world with faculty, mentors and students. Who would have thought? Most importantly, look at the power and capability we hold in our hands or the technologies we can wear. Once what took floors of computers can be accomplished in the palm of our hand.  What is next?


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