I was six years old when the Computer came into use. Ann Shelton would have been nine. Even as children, I think it’s fair to say that The Wanganui Computer loomed large in our collective imaginations. Indeed, growing up in Auckland, I think the Computer was all I really knew about Whanganui in those childhood years, which only enhanced its mystique.
The fact that The Wanganui Computer housed criminal records allowed it a place in our young imaginations. Never mind that it also held details of drivers’ licences, or the fact that criminal records would of course have been kept prior to its advent. There was just something about the mysterious ‘computer-ness’ of those records that instilled a frisson of fear and excitement in young minds. The notion that, once your details were stored there, it was game over. In our own juvenile way, we tapped into this in the schoolyard, equating disobedience with data entry. The logic went that if you did something bad, it wasn’t out of the question that you’d end up on the System.
And what then?