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60 Years of "New Technology"

Lerma Hearn

Since moving to Nashville, Charles and I have sorted through innumerable boxes of letters, papers, books, and other miscellany accumulated through the years by his parents, my parents, and their children (us!). I ran across a letter that 21-year-old Florence Conner wrote to her future husband, Aubrey Hearn, in which she described her reaction to a "new" and potentially useful technology:

July 11, 1929 – "The other day I was writing to Grace on the typewriter when Mother brought a book to me that she wanted me to study. It was a book on typewriting using the touch system. I have already practiced three lessons and there are about thirty. If I learn one a day I could soon know it and use the rest of the summer to fix it firmly in my mind and fingers. Mother thinks it is something everyone ought to know. I don’t know that I would ever need it extensively, but I am glad to learn anything that might be useful."

Sixty years later, Florence’s daughter, Mary Alice Hearn Heard, enthusiastically wrote her parents, her brother, and her sisters about the new "toy" of which she and husband Allan had temporary custody:

June 5, 1989 – "Dear Family, We are now the proud "owners" of a computer for two months (while Joel is away at Centrifuge). I have finally grabbed it away from Allan to have my turn. He has really enjoyed learning this new machine. I’ll have to watch him carefully or he’ll go out and buy one for himself. This is a Macintosh Plus which does all sorts of neat things, most of which I don’t yet know how to do. Perhaps as summer progresses I will write you again with more flair. Allan just demonstrated to me that the printer will print a landscaped page. That’s really something!"

And the uses to which the two ladies put their new technologies? Florence later wrote and published many an article for the Baptist Sunday School Board, at least two children’s books, and one or more books about working with children. Mary Alice used a computer extensively during her years as a copy editor and typist for E-Systems and, of course, has edited and produced five years of the Hearn Herald, using machines that Allan did indeed "go out and buy for himself."