The Lighter Side of Change

By: | Category: IT / Infrastructure

Whenever I’m working with an organization that is struggling with the changes technology is bringing, or when I’m struggling with change (yes, I’ll admit, it sometimes comes up) I think back to something a very wise man once said to me…

I am a seeker of change, not simply for the sake of change, but because I believe it to be a positive force in life.

Wow, that’s some deep thought on the subject! I think this is especially true when it comes to the changes brought about by technology. Even if the change is, well, a bit uncomfortable, it usually results in a net positive for the firm.  I love the philosophical approach, but I guess I have a lighter view of the topic. A lot of the technology induced changes that I’ve seen over the years are downright amusing.

We Learn, We Grow
Early in my “computer” years, circa 1986 (I started when I was in kindergarten) I was working for a retail computer store as their internal accountant. While I was not hired as a systems consultant, it was inevitable that I would be caught in the swirling vortex of PCs as they became popular tools for businesses. Early accounting applications were in their infancy and Lotus 123 ruled the day. (To completely carbon date myself, I even remember WordStar as the defacto standard for word processing…but I digress).

Helping customers understand what they can do with a box that cost $10,000 that showed a little more than a blinking C: prompt on the screen was always great fun. We’d stand back and watch people wander the store in amazement. Some would be afraid to touch anything and others would make some crazy assumptions about how this magic box worked. I remember one gentleman who picked up the mouse and held it up against the monitor screen and rolled it around for several minutes convinced he was somehow doing “data entry.”  Another decided the mouse mat had some sort of property to it that triggered a program to run, so he spent several minutes tapping on the mouse mat,  not the mouse, not the keyboard, but the mat itself.  We probably should have rescued him sooner, but where’s the fun in that?

While some assumptions were a bit crazy, others were completely understandable as people were learning how to use their PCs. I once was helping someone with a problem and I kept instructing her to press the F1 key. After about an hour of trying to figure out why that wasn’t working, it occurred to me what was happening. I then asked, are you pressing the F key first, then the 1 key?  Yep, that was it. I didn’t say press the F1 function key at the top of the keyboard, so understandably, she thought I wanted her to press the “F” key, then the “1” key. Sheesh! If I was clearer it would have saved us both a lot of time.

You’ve probably heard the support story about the customer asking where the “any” key is (press any key to continue), but that has actually been asked of me more than once. My favorite one though is when a client called to report that her hard drive was missing. “What do you mean missing?” I asked. She said “it’s gone; it just disappeared off the screen.”  I asked her what she was seeing on the screen and she replied “nothing, nothing at all.” That’s what they always say, right?… but I knew there had to be something.  I asked her to read me anything at all that was on the screen. She said “it shows a little blinking “A” followed by a colon.  I said “OK, type C: and press the enter key”.  You hear typing in the background and she shouts “It’s back!” She was elated that I somehow made her hard drive reappear out of thin air. I’m pretty happy about it myself.

Back in the Old Days
Ah, the DOS days were fun, weren’t they? Dual floppy drives, 64K of ram, a 10MB hard drive and you were styling! Bill Gates was working on a little program called “Windows” and dot matrix printers clacked away seeking to damage the hearing of anyone within earshot.  Enter the revolution of the Windows operating system and witness the near downfall of the IBM PC. MACs were still considered “toys” and 5 ¼ inch floppies were being replaced by 3 ¼ inch ones that cost over $120 for a box of 10.  Good times…

Windows changed everything of course and a lot of products were slow to make the transition. Accounting systems and even some accountants were resistant to switching to a mode of entering data that involved sliding a mouse around and constantly looking up from your work to make sure you are pointing to the right field. Somehow you knew you weren’t in Kansas anymore.

Fast forward 20 years and thankfully the DOS days are gone. Well, for the most part anyway. Believe it or not, we still have a few hold outs that have an old win98 box that runs those old applications and they’re still plugging away.

Now we work remotely from anywhere in the world, most people haven’t used a floppy disk in years (some don’t even know what they are), jump drives hold massive amounts of data on incredibly small devices, smart phones are the hot accessory, and the future of technology is brighter than ever.

I’m excited about all the great things technology can do for us to enhance our quality and quantity of life. Some though don’t have such a rosy outlook. Predictions in the movies show computers taking over the world and all humans turning into Borgs to be assimilated.  Not me! I’ll just hit the reset button or sneak up on it with a huge magnet and erase its puny little jump drive before it knows what happened. Then I’ll click my heals together three times and say “there’s no place like DOS, there’s no place like DOS”